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The literal meaning of karma is “doing” and the applied meaning is simply that a man’s karma is his own doing. He has made himself what he is now by his own actions—the term karma in its original reference includes mental actions. Karma is simply a power of the Universal Mind to effect adjustment, to restore equilibrium and to bring about compensatory balance. In the sphere of human conduct the result is that somehow, somewhere, and somewhen, whatever a man does is ultimately reflected back to him. No deed is exhausted in the doing of it; eventually it will bear fruit which will return inexorably to the doer. Karma is a self-moving force. Nobody, human or superhuman, has to operate it.

Writing practically and not academically, as a philosopher and not as a philologist, we would say that karma means result, the result of what is thought and done. Such result may happen instantaneously or it may be deferred; it may be achieved partially so far as we can observe, but it will be achieved completely beyond our conscious knowledge. The belief which ties it up wholly with remote reincarnations, whether of the past or of the future, is greatly exaggerated. The principal sphere of its operations is always the same life within which those thoughts and actions originated.

The word karma need not frighten anyone by its exotic sound. It means that which a man receives as the consequence of his own thoughts and actions, and the power or law which brings him those consequences. It also signifies the working out of a man’s past in his present life. Destiny signifies the manner of such working.

With this key of karma in our hands, we can see how a clear inevitability rules life, how the effects of past actions are brought to us all too often in the same birth, and how so much that happens to us is the linked result of what we did before. We do not have to wait for a remote future incarnation always for the effects of karma. Quite often they may be observed in the present one. How many actions in a man’s life, how many of his emotional tendencies and mental habits can be seen to lead directly towards the events which have happened to him in his present life?

We do not carry around with us the accumulated memories of all the incidents of all past lives. What a burden they would be if we did! But what is most valuable in them reappears as our conscience, what is most profitable reappears as our wisdom, and all our experience reappears as our present characteristics and tendencies.

Intelligence acquiesces in and conscience accepts such a reasonable, noble doctrine.

The existence of karma as a principle in nature can only be inferred; it cannot be proved in any other way. But the kind of inference is of the same order as that by which I accept the existence of Antarctica. I have never visited Antarctica, but I am compelled to infer the fact of its existence from many other facts. Similarly I am compelled to infer the fact of karma from many others.

We can better grasp the nature of karma by considering the analogy of electricity whose transmission, conduction, and motion offer good parallels to karmic operation.

Just as the falling of an avalanche down a mountainside is not a moral process but a natural one, so the falling of suffering upon a man who has injured others is only a causal consequence and not really a moral punishment. It is a rectification of equilibrium rather than a deliberate rectification of injustice on the part of the deity.

Is the poetical notion of nemesis unfounded or may we indeed adopt it as fact, independent of personal opinion or individual experience but dependent as all scientific facts are upon the tests of reason and verifica­tion? The answer is “yes;” rebirth may be held to be true because like all scientific laws it conforms with all the known evidence. Yet it is incorrect and unscientific to speak of a “law” of karma. Karma is not a law to obey or disobey, nor is it a penal code for wrong-doers. It is simply the principle of inevitable consequences.

Karma and Freewill

Whoever declares that karma rules out all accidents preaches predesti­nation, and thereby proves that he has not understood karma. For the difference between these two doctrines is the difference between a fixed structure and a flexible process.

Is the human will free or not? It cannot be said with full truth that our destiny is in our own hands; it is more accurate to say it is partially in our own hands. Limits have been set for us within which we have to carry on our lives. This is not at all the same condition as one where we cannot influence our future. There is no completely fatalistic mold into which our lives must run; we have a certain amount of freedom, even though we have not total freedom.

It is true that so long as the element of inner freedom exists in man, his future will be unforseeable and incalculable. But this element does not exist in solitude. There is also an unbroken but hidden causal chain which connects his present life with what is rooted in the remote past of former lives. To say that he has a free will and stop with such a statement is to tell a half-truth. His will always coexists with his karma.

We tolerate the tyranny of the past because we are weak, because we have not yet entered into that knowledge of our inherent being which makes us strong and gives us the mastery. We inherit the body from our parents with the genes which are the germinal beginnings of it, but we inherit our mind from ourselves. What we were mentally in former lives is the heritage we receive and unfold in the present one. Both heredity and environment nurse the unfolding mind of man as it itself was born elsewhere, albeit that its attractions and affinities lead it to such heredity and environment.

In this struggle against fate-sent conditions, human will and per­sonal endeavour can be effective within the circle of their own limita­tions.

We may ask if there is any point along our entire course where we really have a choice, really have a chance between two ways, to do what we actually want to do. Our freedom consists in this, that we are free to choose between one act and another but not between the conse­quences arising out of those acts. We may claim our inner freedom whatever our outer future may be. We may fix our own life aims, choose our own beliefs, form our own ideas, entertain desires, and express aversions as we wish. Here, in this sphere of thought and feeling, action and reaction, freewill is largely ours.

We are the victims of our overshadowing past. It is not possible to wipe it out entirely and start writing the record of our life on a clean slate. We have to put up with the consequences of our own thoughts and acts until we learn wisdom from them. Then by changing present causes, we shall help to modify these effects of the past. Tears will not wipe them out.

Our life is circumscribed by destiny, but is not completely fore­ordained by it. A wholly fatalistic view of life is a half false one; worse, it is also dangerous for it banishes hope just when hope is most needed.

It is wise to submit to the inevitable, but first it is needful to be sure it is the inevitable. There are times when it is wiser to struggle against destiny like a captured tiger, and other times when it is wiser to sit as still in its presence as a cat by the hearth.

Our course of experience insofar as it brings us pleasure or pain is partly predetermined by our actions in past existences and partly the consequence of our freewill exertions during the present existence. The two factors of dynamic freedom and deterministic fate are always at work in our lives.

Each man is his own ancestor. His past thinking is the parent of his present tendencies and the contributor towards his present deeds.

That chance, coincidence, and luck seem to play their role in man’s life is a fact which nobody with wide experience could gainsay. But there is no justification for asserting that these happenings are quite blind. Although we may fail to understand the strange decisions of fate, we should never fail to believe that it is itself governed by inexorable law. There is an outside agency which plays a hand in the game of life, and behind human existence there is infinite wisdom.

Karma has a twofold character. There is the kind which nothing that the wit of man may devise can alter, and there is also the kind which he may alter by counter-thoughts and counter-actions, or by repentance and prayer. Evil karma cannot be extinguished without moral repentance, although it may be modified by astuteness.

In a chapter in Living Philosophies, Albert Einstein says, “I do not believe we can have any freedom at all in the philosophical sense, for we act not only under external compulsion but also by inner necessity.” Schopenhauer’s saying, “A man can surely do what he wills to do, but he cannot determine what he wills,” impressed itself upon me in my youth and has always consoled me when I have witnessed or suffered life’s hardships.

Freewill versus Fate is an ancient and useless controversy, which is purely artificial and therefore insoluble as it is ordinarily presented. They are not antinomies but complementaries. They are not in opposi­tion. The wise man combines both. In the absence of a knowledge of the factors of karma and evolution, all discussion of such a topic is unreal, superficial, and illusory. As spiritual beings we possess freewill; as human beings we do not. This is the key to the whole matter.

If we analyse the meaning of words instead of using them carelessly, we shall find that in this case of “freewill” the term often stands for the very opposite idea to that for which it is supposed to stand. Where is the real freedom of a man who is enslaved by his appetites and in bondage to his passions? When he expresses what he believes to be his own will he is in actuality expressing the will of those appetites and passions. So long as desires, passions, environments, heredity, and external suggestions are the real sources of his actions, where is his real freewill? Without freedom from desires there is no freedom of will. Unless a man find his true self he cannot find his true will. The problem of fate versus freewill must first be understood before it can be solved. And this understanding cannot be had whilst we make the usual superficial approach instead of the rarer semantic approach. Our will is free but only relatively so.

Freewill is a fact in human existence, but destiny is a greater fact. To obtain an accurate picture of that existence we must put the two together, although we do not know the exact proportions to assign to them. But we do know that the greater emphasis is to be laid upon destiny. We have only a limited measure of freewill; we cannot exercise complete control over our lives.

The course of fortune is not swayed by blind chance nor determined by implacable fate. The human will is partially free, the human envi­ronment partially determined. What we never anticipated comes with a painful shock or a pleasant surprise into our lives. The freedom which we should like to possess, or which we feel we have, is always criss­crossed with an unpredictable element.

The time and place, the manner and conditions of any man’s birth, as of his death, are entirely preordained by a power outside that man’s individual will and freedom. Just as the leading events and characters in a man’s past earth life will appear before him as in a cinema film after death, so will the new events and the new characters of his coming reincarnation appear before him when he takes up his new earthly abode. Just as in the after-death experience he sees the whole course of his past life from the higher standpoint of his higher self, and can therefore see the reasons and causes which led up to those situations and those actions—and thus recognize that wisdom, purpose, and justice govern human life—so in the same way he is able to view the coming earth life from the higher standpoint and understand the karmic causes of the coming events and actions which his previous tendencies will most likely bring about. These pictorializations of the past and the future are not without their value, even though it is a subconscious value. As a result of them, something registers deep within the mind and heart of the ego. Finally philosophy points out that destiny plays the larger part in man’s life. This does not mean that events are unalterably predetermined, but partially predetermined. Life viewed in a static fatalistic manner is life with all initiative killed, all progress crushed. This blind apathy is based not on real spirituality but on fallacious thinking. “Because the whole universe is an expression of God’s will, and because every event happens within the universe, therefore every calamity must be accepted as expressing God’s will.” So runs the logic.

The best way to expose the fallacy lurking in this contention is to place it by the side of a counter syllogism. “Because the whole universe is an expression of God’s will, and because every individual resistance to calamity happens within the universe, therefore such resistance is an expression of God’s will.”

It must not be supposed that man is so helpless as he would seem. Much of his destiny was made by himself in the past. He made it, therefore he can help to change it. Destiny controls him, but his freewill has some control over destiny. This will be true, however, only to the extent that he learns the lessons of experience and creatively exercises that freewill.

Because the divine soul is present in man, there is laid upon him the duty of reflecting divine qualities in his thought and life. If he tries to evade this, he is forced to suffer this same will in pain. A real freedom of the will he never obtains.

Karma and Rebirth

How is it that karma can perpetuate itself in the absence of an ego that outlives the body? How is it possible for continuity of karmic existence to happen when there is a complete break in it? This is a question which has never been adequately answered by those who like the Buddhist philosophers have risen above the crude animistic notions of transmigration held by the ordinary unphilosophic Hindu. Nor can it ever be adequately answered by any who do not lay hold of the rational key to such major problems—the key of Mentalism. For this alone can explain the contradictions involved in the assertion that karma can continue in the absence of an ego-entity to which it can cling. And it does this by positing the doctrine first that all things are mental things; second, that the mind has two phases, the conscious and the subcon­scious; third, that whatever disappears from the conscious disappears into the subconscious; fourth, that the latter is a wonderful repository of all ideas and forces which have ever existed, albeit that they repose in a purely latent state; fifth, that both ego and karma find their link from birth supplied by this subconscious latent storehouse. Karma as an equilibrating process resides in the subconscious and, unseen, ties the fruit of an act of its agent, the consequence of his deeds to the ego; and because time and space are non-existent in the subconscious, it can work unhindered and leap the chasm between rebirths. The ego, as Buddha pointed out, comes into temporary being as the compound of five things: namely body, sensations, precepts, characteristic tendencies, and waking consciousness; but when these fall apart at death the ego perishes, too. It is not to be conceived as an individual entity binding these five elements together, but rather as the illusory consequence of their meeting and mingling at the same time. But the ego is not annihilated forever but rather merged into the subconscious where it remains as a latent possibility. The power of karma, which is itself a power of the subconscious mind, takes up the latter at the appropriate time and converts it into actuality, that is a new reincarnation, whilst dictating the character of the body and fortune according to the past lives. It is not an entity which transmigrates from one body to another, but a mental process.

The troubles of life largely originate in our individual fate, the latter being predetermined by our own thoughts and deeds of earlier lives. The way out of many of these troubles is to remove their root causes, in other words the power of this past karma. The latter lives on only because we as individuals live on. The removal of the sense of individ­uality therefore should be our chief goal, but such removal can be effected only after we have discovered what individuality really is.

Learning through experience means learning through a long succession of trials and errors. Through the consequent suffering we are forced to arouse discrimination and by this to move upward from imperfect and incorrect attitudes of thought. Man is educated by events, and he cannot hope to master in one lifetime all the lessons which life offers.

Even in the midst of horrors that threaten the life of man today from sea and air and earth, it is well to remember that whatever happens this incarnation does not exhaust the possibilities of human life. We shall return again to take up the old quest, to carry it a step further; and all that we have mastered in thought and achieved in deed will be gathered anew ere long. Nothing that is of the mind will be lost, aye, even the strong loves and hard hates will draw friendly and unfriendly faces across our orbit once again. The pupils will seek higher and higher for their true teacher and find no rest until the right words sound in their ears; the teacher will be compelled to wait calmly but compassionately for their slow recovery of ancient memory and spiritual ripeness.

Man quickly forgets but karma always remembers. The brain through which mind has to work, being new with every new body, cannot share this vast store of memories. The possibility of sometimes recovering any of them exists only for a person trained in a peculiar method of meditation which demands intense concentration upon memories of the present life; but occasionally fragments of such memories also present themselves spontaneously to untrained but sen­sitive persons.

In certain cases where one destined for great advancement on the spiritual path willfully refuses to enter upon it or impatiently postpones such entrance for a later period, the Overself will often take a hand in the game and release karma of frustrated ambitions, disappointed hopes, and even broken health. Then in despair, agony, or pain, the wayfarer will drink the cup of voluntary renunciation or wear the shabby clothes of self-denial. His ego diminishes its strength out of suffering. His real enemy on the path is the “I,” for it is the cause of both material suffering and mental anguish, whilst it blocks the gate to truth. The more the course of worldly events depresses him, the more he will learn to withdraw from his depression into the forgetfulness of spiritual con­templation. It is enough for a votary of mysticism to find temporary peace in this way; but for a votary of philosophical mysticism, it is not. Such a one must insert reflection upon the meaning of those events into his contemplation. When he has attained to this impersonal insight, he may look back upon his past life and understand why so much of what happened had to happen.

The doctrine of karma clarifies the meaning of an unfortunate situa­tion in which a man finds himself. Without its light he will often think, but think wrongly, that the fault lies wholly with others—and fail to see that he is at least partly responsible for it .

The gifts of fate and the reverses of fortune alike are to be regarded as ideas. Thus only may we lift ourselves into a region of real tran­quillity.

The foolishness and failures of the past will vanish from memory but not from character. Although the forces of heredity and the influence of environment seem to be the chief forces behind man’s actions, there are also deep-rooted tendencies carried over from an unknown forgotten past. It is impossible for man to escape his past altogether; the effects are there in him and in his environment. The problems it created have not all been solved, nor all the debts paid. All past thoughts and previous experiences have brought his intelligence and character to their present point. All karma from earlier incarnations has led him to the point where he now stands as a particular human being. He cannot now help being what he is. He is today the sum total of a myriad past impressions.

Man is the deposit of his own past and in turn as he lives gives rise to a fresh deposit. It is thus that the human race is subject to the process of physical rebirth. “Let us open our eyes lest they be painfully opened for us,” pleaded the Turkish writer Albitis.

Buddha said,

“It happens, my disciples, that a Bhikshu, endowed with faith, endowed with righteousness, endowed with knowledge of the Doctrine, with resignation, with wisdom, communes thus with himself. ‘Now then could I, when my body is dissolved in death, obtain rebirth in a powerful princely family?’ He thinks this thought, dwells on this thought, cherishes this thought. The Shankaras and Viharas (internal condition) which he has thus cherished within him and fostered, lead to his rebirth in such an existence. This, O Disciples is the avenue, this is the path, which leads to rebirth in such an existence.”

There is no simpler or more satisfactory explanation of the rags or riches which mark out one human birth from another, and no more logical solution of the divergences and differences which abound in human character. We keep on coming to earth because this is the most effective way to learn wisdom. We form friendships at first sight because we are merely picking up the threads of a hidden past.

Karma and Religious Teachings

Professor Hocking is reported to have said that Christianity cannot become a world faith unless Christians accept the idea of reincarnation from the Hindus, and that without this belief the Sermon on the Mount is not to be understood.

The first faiths inculcated ethical injunctions through the use of historical myths and legendary characters and through the appeal to fear or hope; the latest faith will tell the plain unvarnished truth that man must live rightly because he will have to eat the fruit of his own deeds. The mature mind needs a philosophical explanation of the world, whereas the childish mind, befogged by superstition, is satisfied with a fabled one. The ethics of former centuries were founded on uncertain fears of a probably existent God; the ethics of the present are founded on complete indifference to a non-existent God. The first led to some restraint on conduct, the second leads to none. The ethics of the future will be founded on rational understanding of the power of karma, the law of personal responsibility; and this will lead to right restraint on conduct. For when we contemplate the environmental limitations of life, the unsought pleasures and inescapable hardships, we come quietly into a perception of the power of karma.

Karma in the sphere of human conduct is neither more nor less than character. We really have as much free will as we need. If we do not avail ourselves of proffered opportunities because we are too blind to recognize them, the fault lies in ourselves. If we embark on an action which is initially and superficially profitable, but ultimately and pro­foundly inimical to our own interests, and it brings in its train a whole line of other undesirable actions as the sequence, we should not weep at karma’s cruelty but at our own lack of intelligence. Those who practise self-pity as a habit may find a convenient scapegoat in karma, but the truth is that the ethical standards and mental qualities of man are the hidden factors which predetermine his fate. Karma is not an idea which need dull men’s minds or paralyse their hands. It has a positive value and a regenerating influence by awakening both in nations and in individuals a sense of ethical responsibility, thus inducing them to heal voluntarily the wounds caused by past errors.

Sooner or later man is bound to give expression in action or in speech to the thoughts and emotions which dominate him. There is no escape from this because the world surrounding him is largely a reflection of his own character. Once the trigger of a gun has been pulled, no subsequent action on the part of the shooter can deflect the bullet from its ordained path. In other words, if you fire a bullet you cannot recall it to the gun; it must go on until it strikes somewhere. And the thoughts and feelings of men, when sufficiently intense and prolonged, strike somewhere in this material world and appear before them again, as either physical events or physical environments. The operations of karma belong to the realm of the conscious—that is, the realm of the individual, of space and time.

Cults which teach that destiny either does not matter or is non­existent are cults which can never lead man to true happiness, for they illustrate that blind leading of the blind of which we have heard before. Destiny exists, and it is wise to face and acknowledge the fact. The mere refusal to acknowledge its existence does not thereby dismiss it. It is there and no amount of prayer or concentration will dismiss it because it exists for the benefit of man—for his ethical and intellectual education—and because whilst living in this world he cannot have one without the other. Christian doctrine has become a spent force, because it lacks the appeal of actuality and immediacy. Few people are frightened today by the prospect of a sojourn in a problematical purga­tory, nor can they be cajoled by the prospect of an incredibly monoto­nous sojourn in the orthodox heaven. What they need is something applicable to life here and now on this earth and not in invisible heavens. Modern man cannot now find in orthodox dogma sufficient driving power to make him live a good life rather than a bad one. The world’s troubles can be traced to the lack of a sound basis for ethics to replace the crumbling one of religion. John Locke said, “If God did not exist we should have to invent one in order to keep men orderly.” I believe, however, that such invention is unnecessary; the introduction of belief in the doctrine of karma would equally suffice to restrain the evil conduct of men. The current and ancient idea that atheism must lead to immorality and wickedness does not apply to the philosophic brand of atheism, because here the notion of karma is added, making man his own punisher.

It is of the utmost importance that the masses should not lose their faith that a moral purpose governs the world even though they lose their religion. There is no supernatural and external being who arbitrarily administers or controls karmic rewards or punishments. We unconsciously produce their seeds ourselves; when a favourable hour comes, they germinate and yield their own fruit.

Large numbers of men today practise morality without actively believing in religion. Those who doubt this have not inquired deeply enough into the facts. Morality is not so dependent on theology as it was in primitive communities which lacked culture. Men are imbibing effective guidance from the press articles of sensible men, from the books of rational men and from the scientists of the world—all this without listening to a word from the pulpit.

What then is the hope for the West? To propagate a new creed with its baseless promises of a heaven to come is merely to offer more religion, more of a medicine which has already failed to relieve the suffering of mankind. There is only one hope—to administer truth. The justification of religion has been that it has kept the masses within certain moral limits, but this was done through threat and fear. If superstition, which in plain language means falsehoods, can keep the masses within moral bounds, surely truth can do as much if not more. The answer is that it can. We need not give the masses the whole of truth, for they are not ready to receive it, but we can give them an important doctrine which does not conflict with reason or with science, and which will yet provide them with a solid foundation for a genuine morality. This is the doctrine of karma. At the same time, an ethical code based upon such teaching will possess all the force of one based upon religion—while it ought to succeed where religion has failed. Let us make the attempt to build such a code on this firmer basis. But there is no such thing as proselytism, and he who imagines he has made a convert fools himself. Experience moulds views, instruction merely confirms them.

If unerring karma were the only power behind human fortunes and misfortunes, it would be a sorry outlook for most of us. We have neither the knowledge, the strength nor the virtue to accumulate much good merit. On the contrary, we have all the ignorance, the weakness and the sinfulness to accumulate plenty of demerit. But such is the beneficence behind the universe that we are not left to the treatment of karma alone. Alongside it there exists another power, the power of grace. The two operate together, although nobody can predict how much or how little of one or the other will manifest itself in any particular case. But of the reality and activity of grace we may be firmly assured. If there were no final way of deliverance from earthly bondage, our store of self-earned pain would accumulate to such an extent with every birth as to be inexhaustible. Our tremendous load of karmic sin could never be remitted, and man once lost in darkness would be lost forever. But redemption will be the ultimate lot of all, not the monopoly of a few; and none will be excluded from salvation, for all are enclosed within the circle of divine love.

Karma and Human Relationships

The situations peculiar to family life not infrequently bring together two souls whose karmic relation is not that of love but of enmity. They may be brought together as brother and sister, or even as husband and wife. What should be the philosophical attitude of one to the other? Taking a concrete example and assuming the case of marital discord, and without prejudice to the practical methods such as separation or divorce—which may be considered necessary—it may be said that the enlightened partner should regard the other first as a revealing agent to bring his or her own faults into sharp definition, and second as a laboratory wherein he or she can experiment with the eradication of such faults. Thus if the wife frequently flares into passionate anger, or constantly expresses nagging abuse, her provocations ought not to be allowed to call forth the husband’s anger but rather his latent self­-control; her lack of considerateness should arouse not a corresponding lack on his part but rather more considerateness. In this way the situation provided by her conduct can be converted into an opportunity to rise to higher things. Every domestic quarrel, however petty, should enable him to show forth something of the diviner aspects within himself. Again even assuming the two are radically unsuited to each other and sooner or later will have to part, the unhappiness thereby caused should be used by the enlightened partner to make him or her more determined to gain independence from external things for happi­ness, and to become more reliant upon those inner satisfactions which only the best in the mind can yield. Furthermore, they should make the person understand that he or she is expiating past karma which is self-earned through his or her own impulsiveness, stupidity, or passion.

The worst physical karma is created by murder. There the penalty is inescapable, however delayed. The murderer will himself be murdered, although not necessarily in the same incarnation. The worst mental karma is created by hatred. If sufficiently intense and prolonged, it will give rise to destructive diseases which eat away the flesh.

It is hard to stop the flow of these thought-waves. We have built them up as habits through many incarnations. Those mental tendencies which have become our desires and passions are nothing else but ideas which are strongly implanted in us from our former births.

Gautama explained that one of the distinguishing marks of a Buddha is that he understands precisely how his thoughts, feelings, and per­ceptions arise, continue, and pass away, and consequently he is not swayed by them but is able to maintain complete control over them. Such an ideal perfection of self-observation and self-knowledge may not be possible for the average man, but he can at least achieve a little of it with a profit out of all proportion to the effort entailed.

Even if we have to undergo a sorrowful destiny connected with the body, our reaction should be different from that of the unawakened man. We may go through the same experiences as he does but we should remember always that we are not the ego and try to remain mentally uplifted by the unavoidable sufferings. At all times we should try to be the “witness self” remaining calmly above it all.

The man who has lived for very many births on earth becomes rich with crowded experiences, and should be wiser than the man who has had but few births.

The extent of the karmic consequences of an act will be proportion­ate to the energy it holds. The World-Mind faithfully records the loftiest aspirations or the meanest desires. If, however, the thought, emotion, or willed deed is only a passing idle one, then the impression remains dormant only and no karma is generated. Impressions which are very weak or unstrengthened by repetition are quite ineffective, but when they grow by repetition or collection they eventually become karmic and produce definite results. For this reason alone it is wisdom to nip a fault—when recognized—in the bud, and eliminate it before it becomes strong enough to do serious harm. It is also wise to remem­ber that high ideals firmly held and lofty aspirations deeply rooted in the heart cannot fail to bear fruit of their kind in due course.

We should realize that each person thinks and acts according to the long life-experience which has brought him to the point of understanding where he now stands. Such a person therefore must inevitably be as he is and not otherwise. All the inner forces of his being, accumulated during many births, influence him to act as he does.

Observe too the karmic influences. What rich, envied family is there which is without a skeleton of suffering or misfortune or disease in its cupboard? Who does not know of some who have two or three skeletons? You may have found, as so many have done in these dark days, that life contains mysterious and potent karmic influences which reach out ominous hands to break the things you have set your heart upon; which permit you to achieve success and then destroy it before your eyes; which play havoc with the health and perhaps the lives of those near and dear to you. Your heart may often have bled in silence.

We create our own burdens of latent suffering when our deeds injure others, and we give birth to bitter ultimate consequences when we give birth to thoughts of hatred. The forces of lust, greed, and anger are blind ones which uncontrolled, unleashed and unguided lead man­kind to so much karmic trouble and misery.

A fire may be used to roast food or to roast a man at the stake. The fire itself is not an evil, but the use or abuse of it is good or evil; and this in its turn depends on what impulses are working in a man’s heart, what tendencies he has brought over from past lives. Thus evil powers are after all our own evil thoughts. The world will be liberated from evil as soon as man liberates his mind. Mind is the agent whereby the working of karma is effected. There is no need to call in an extra­-cosmic supernatural being to explain how man’s deeds are requited.

National Karma

Karma is no dream. Those who want facts may have them. Russia built its large dam and hydroelectric station at Dnieperpetrovsk largely out of the forced labour of peasants and political prisoners. This con­struction job was the pride of the Communists. But they had to destroy it in a single day by their own hands when the German army approached. What they had built by such unethical means availed them nothing in the end. Karma is not a fossil doctrine. In their hearts men recognize that eternal justice rules the world and implacably pursues both good and evil doers; they have but to be reminded of the truth to accept it. Modern existence may repress it for the best part of a lifetime, but in the end most of us succumb to the belief that some part of the future is already foreordained and written invisibly across the brow of every person. Emerson said, “If you put a chain round the neck of a slave the other end will fasten round your own neck.”

The use of brains or brutality or both may give a man success, but the matter does not end there. After the achievement of success, karma comes into operation and demands the price; and it may be paid by failure or suffering or both.

The stream of fate pursues its perennial course, halting now and then to find new historical channels which become necessary to its movement. The nation that first drops gas bombs on unarmed civilians drops them also on its own. Did it but know, the nation that breaks the rules of righteousness breaks also its own fortunes.

“He that loveth iniquity beckoneth to misfortune; it is, as it were, the echo answering to his own voice.” If the Japanese had heeded this wise counsel from one of their old books, the ninth-century Teaching of the Words of Truth, they would not have encountered such a sorry plight as was theirs at the end of the Second World War.

If we wish to understand what has been happening in the world, we must first understand that continental and national karma are hidden causes of its distresses.

A nation arises by the adding together of every individual in it. You are one of those individuals whose thought and conduct will help to make your nation’s karma. The subject of collective destiny is very complicated because it is composed of many more elements than indi­vidual destiny. The individual who is born into a particular nation has to share the general destiny of that nation as well as his own individual karma. If however he withdraws from that nation by his own choice and migrates to another country, he will then share a new collective destiny which is bound to modify his own and put its mark upon it, either improving it by giving him more opportunity or causing it to deteriorate.

There is a collective national karma which gradually grows and then materializes. When a group of people live together and work together, either in a country or a city, they gradually form for themselves a national or a municipal destiny which they have to bear. Sometimes this result is good, sometimes it is bad, but generally it is a mixture of both. Hence we find in history such things as a national destiny and a racial fate. Karma operates no less among the societies of mankind than among individuals themselves. The life of nations, as of individuals, is an alternating rhythm of darkness and light. Epochs of great retrogression are followed by epochs of great advance.

Would the history of India have taken an entirely different direction if Clive had not been there to lead British arms to victory? Was its history so fated beforehand that when the young Clive tried twice to shoot himself in Madras, the pistol refused to fire and Clive gave up further attempts at suicide?

When a whole people move along the road of wrong-doing, then they invite suffering for their purification and enlightenment. So long as selfishness rules society, so long will society have its sufferings. So long as nations are indifferent to the woes of other nations, so long will they themselves sooner or later share those woes. A wealthy people cannot escape a partial responsibility for its refusal to help the poorer peoples, nor a powerful nation for its tolerance of the persecution of others, nor an aggressive race for its forcible domination over weaker races. The world wars have abundantly illustrated these truths. Great sins have brought great retributions. This is a period of vast purifica­tion through suffering.

But even amid the swirl of hatred and the sight of horror we must never forget the inward oneness of mankind, and that even tyrants share this ultimate divine unity with us in their innermost nature.

Ultimately, we must say that the sad situation in the world was a self-earned one; and because it was self-earned it was necessary. The world needed to undergo the experience which it has undergone because it needed ethical and intellectual education, even though that particular form of education has been unpleasant and painful. What mankind can learn clearly and obviously from its continued present sufferings is that without goodwill towards each other brought into external manifestation there is not actual peace but only its pretence, that outward peace may even be a cloak for the preparation of war. They have learned that treaties are nothing but scraps of paper when written in ink alone and not also in the heart. The cleverest men in Europe tried to solve the problems which bristled all around, but they failed. They had the brains but they did not have the goodwill; if they had had that, then the problems could have been solved easily. Good­will was lacking and it was lacking because of man’s innate greed and selfishness. So long as he feels that at all costs he must cling to what he calls his possessions, and that moreover he must constantly increase these possessions, he is hardly likely to be motivated by goodwill. Selfishness urges man to cling to and increase possessions; good reminds him he is but the steward of them. Only through repeated suffering is he beginning to learn that justice and goodwill, the attitude of give and take and even the spirit of generosity are essential to the maintenance of peace. These are merely ethical qualities, and yet with­out them there is not peace —there will always be war. If mankind wishes to avoid repeating this age-old destiny there is only one way, old-fashioned and very simple: a change of heart. Without this change of heart there can be only postponement of war, a temporary patching of problems but no genuinely peaceful solution. And so we come back to a very familiar position, that if we seek the Kingdom of Heaven first, all these things will be added unto us—even peace.

The West needs the notions of karma and rebirth if it is not to be destroyed by its own ignorance. Only such an intellectual basis can give effective force to the idea of morality in these intellectual times.

Karma and Non-violence

Because we hold that karma is the hidden ruler of man’s fortunes and that force cannot be their final arbiter, we do not necessarily hold that force may therefore be dispensed with in favour of an ethic of non­violence. Soft, woolly and sentimental mystics repose a pathetic faith in the power of nonviolence to crush aggressive totalitarianism and armed brutality. Their attitude represents a failure to recognize unpalatable facts, while their remedy represents a journey into the absurd—however high-minded it be. If we put this doctrine to the practical test, which is the only certain test, what do we find? What happened more than a century ago when a couple of hundred young American negroes landed in West Africa to found the Liberian Republic? They were specially selected because of their religio-mystical tendencies and noble characters, most of them being Quakers in fact. It is well known that Quakers make non-violence a cardinal doctrine. They were unarmed and declared openly that they trusted in the Lord to protect them. In fact, neither their pacifism nor the Lord did so: they were brutally massacred to a man.

For a further instance, let us come closer to our own times and to an Indian who was not only a devoted follower of Gandhi but himself renowned for his saintly character. This was Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi. The story concerns one of several communal riots at Kanpur between the Muslims and Hindus. G. S. Vidyarthi firmly believed that by approaching a fanatical and frenzied Muslim mob unarmed except by this doctrine of non-violence he could pacify them and restore peace. What really happened was that they murdered him straightaway.

The sage does not accept the mystical doctrine of non-violence for various philosophical reasons. His principle practical reason, however, is because he does not wish to confirm the wrong-doer in his wrong-doing, and does not wish either to smooth the latter’s path and thus encourage evil, or to practise partiality towards him. A meek submission to an aggressor’s will makes the aggressor believe that his methods pay, whereas a determined resistance checks his downward course, arouses doubts and even provides instruction should he suffer punishment.

The doctrine of non-violence is derived from the ancient Indian rule of Ahimsa. Himsa means the causing of pain, suffering, injury, or brutality to sentient creatures—animals as well as men. “A” is the negative prefix which, of course, reverses the word’s meaning. But is there warrant for the belief that such forbearance from inflicting injury or pain on others was taught by the sages as a universal and unqualified ethic for all persons? On the contrary, they made it clear that it was applicable only within certain limits so far as citizens of a state were concerned, while granting that it was to be adopted in its entirety by those monks and hermits who had renounced the world and were no longer concerned with the welfare of organized society. For those of us who have not retired from the struggle of existence there is a bounden duty to protect human life, because of its superior value, when it is endangered by wild beasts—even if we have to kill those beasts. Non-violence is therefore not an invariable rule of conduct so far as animals are concerned. Nor is it even so when we consider the case of human relations. Circumstances arise when it is right and proper to arm oneself in defence of one’s country and slay aggressive invaders, or when it is ethically correct to destroy a murderous assailant. What must always be avoided is the infliction of unnecessary pain.

He who invokes the doctrine of pacifism for universal practice misapplies an ethical rule meant only for monks and ascetics who have renounced the world, and misconceives a mystical doctrine of unity meant only for inward realization. Pacifism is admirable in a mystic, but out of place in a man of the world.

Karma and Man’s Reaction

The Pythagorean practice of nightly self-interrogation with such ques­tions as “What have I done wrongly?” and “What duty have I left undone?” was an excellent one to counteract bad karma in the making, as was their other practice of saying and doing nothing whilst under the influence of passion.

Karma is reciprocal. It brings back what we put forth. If a man lives like an animal, he has abused his human birth and must thank only himself if he is reborn in an animal’s body.

We hear in every religion, whether Eastern or Western, of the sufferings undergone by the wicked in the after-death state. They are supposed to dwell for a while in a nether world, a purgatory. The truth is that this is a primitive symbol of the higher doctrine that the wicked do suffer after death, but only when they are reborn on earth again.

Is karma so iron-bound that there is no hope for man to escape its strong mechanism? The answer is that we may assuredly cherish such a hope, if not for such escape or for the abolition of karmic suffering, at least for rendering it less painful and more bearable—as an anesthetic renders a surgical operation less painful and more bearable—provided we fulfil the requisite preconditions of repentance, reparation, and resignation. Karmic pressures do not oblige us to act in a particular way, although they do push us to do so. If we choose, we can set up inner resistance to these pressures and thus modify or even alter their effects.

To offset the karmic effects of a bad deed, do the contrary one; and of bad thought or speech we should deliberately cultivate the opposite kind. If something has been taken from a man, something should be given voluntarily which is of equal or greater value to him.

If it be true that we cannot wish our bad karma away, it is equally true that we can balance it with good karma and thus offset its results. Buddha, who was one of the greatest exponents of the karma doctrine, pointed out that right thinking and good deeds could change karmic curses into blessings.

The fixed focusing of a persistent concentrated idea will exert pres­sure from within, as it were, and may slowly alter the karmic physical fortunes of a man. Karma is thought as much as action, desire as much as deed. The one is the seed which fructifies into the other and cannot be separated from it. It is this silent, secret registration in the World­-Mind which makes the working of karma possible, just as the sound tracks in a gramophone disc make possible the hearing of its song.

Fate often seems to act in an arbitrary fashion, favouring the wicked and striking down the undeserving, but this is an illusion born of the dark night in which we habitually move. For in the end their actions take root from out of the very nature of man himself, who is the ultimate and chief arbiter of his own destiny. Man is like a race of Lilliputians which lives in a narrow pass between the giant walls of Justice and beats its head ceaselessly against these stony barriers. The four gods stand by, hard or lenient at times, but always just. From every man they require a requital and an accounting for his deeds. And so high are these walls that no man has ever broken through them.

Things act according to their nature. Nature records these actions in a secret way and reflects back their appropriate results. And as with things, so with persons. Each of us sings out a note into the universe, and the universe answers us in the same key. Karma is the bed which we unconsciously make for ourselves and upon which we shall one day have to lie.

When rendering our account of good or bad fortune, we usually forget to include the ethical values which we acquired from each experience. Nevertheless, when a man has first attained some under­standing he will involuntarily bring the great truth of karma into this light—not merely as an intellectual dogma but as a heartfelt convic­tion. He will then shrink with horror from the memory of his past wrong-doing. Yet he knows it cannot be evaded and must be faced. And then, not out of external bidding but out of his own inner being, he will lay a duty upon himself—the duty of atonement. So far as he can, he will seek out those whom he has wronged and make fit repara­tion. If he refuses this task he will find his peace violated by those memories which will spring up unbidden again and again.

We may take defeat in a spirit of either bitter resentment or melancholy pessimism. Both these attitudes are wholly unprofitable. There is a third and better way—to make defeat serve as the starting point of a different advance. This can be done by, first, a frank ungrudging and searching self-examination to discover faults and con­fess wrongs, and second, by deeds of repentant amends and the pio­neering of a new outlook.

“No man knows his own strength or value but by being put to the proof. Calamity is the spur to a great mind.” If Seneca could write these words when the tyrant Nero was his ruler, we too can find out their truth when modern tyrants turn the world upside down.

“Looking back from this my seventieth year, it seems to me that every card in my working life has been dealt to me in such a manner that I had but to play it as it came.” This confession by Rudyard Kipling reveals how destiny so largely made his life.

Karma does not say that a man born in a slum must remain there till he dies. It puts him there, true; but it is up to him to get out of it by his use of intelligence and by his personal efforts. It is true, however, that he cannot do everything he wishes, for he has to start with the existing material and develop from that. “No general can be lucky unless he is bold,” said General Sir Archibald Wavell. It is the same on the battle­field of life. We must be prepared to take a risk or two if we would leave the field in triumph.

People talk dolefully about their hard fate and their unfavourable karma. What will happen to them when they put on the philosophic mantle? Does truth mercifully cancel their unpleasant future and pro­vide them with a bed of roses in return for their acceptance of her? Do they paralyse their karma by their profound insight? Alas, these com­forting expectations are denied them. The charted karma still stands, but their attitude towards it performs a volte face. The shadows cast upon them by the stars do not change, but they themselves do change. They are resolved henceforth to accept their sorrows in sublime spirit of forbearance. They are determined to submit to their destiny, not from weakness but from strength. Sometimes they may even welcome misfortune when they know it can free their character from obstruc­tions to true growth. If suffering came in the past to educate them or to teach them to discriminate between what is permanent and what is ephemeral, it now comes to test them. It provides them with fit oppor­tunities to try their strength and to realize whether the House of Life they are erecting is built of solid brick or of fragile reeds.

This teaching does not turn a man into a lethargic fatalist as it does not permit him to swell into a conceited individualist. It neither offers any excuse for a miserable weakness, nor bolsters up an illusory strength. It does inspire him with a balanced view of his possibilities, a sane view of his powers.

He has to pass through the school of multiform experiences. He is not to glean his wisdom from books alone, nor solely from meditation, but also from life itself. He may find himself plunged into conditions which seem useless to his spiritual development and unjust to noble aims. But the Overself in its far-seeing wisdom knows better. From the philosophic standpoint it is not a matter for regret when he has to face adverse circumstances, but rather a challenge as to what he can make of them. They represent a triple possibility: deterioration, stagnation, or growth. When his mind has been accustomed sufficiently long to these ideas, and when they have been recreated as the product of his own thinking and the conclusions of his own experience, they will enable him to meet the challenges of destiny and the mutations of fortune with a strength and wisdom unknown before.

He will begin to see that underlying the obvious human purpose of the relationships with all those other men and women who cross or stay on his path, there is another and deeper one. Whether they be friends or enemies, whether they bring pleasure or anguish, the experi­ence of meeting them is finally to teach lessons.

When someone on whom he has relied for happiness proves unfaith­ful, he may treat the episode in two different ways. He may react in the common manner and become resentful, bitter, hurt, and agonized. Or he may react in an uncommon manner and become wiser if sadder, better instructed in his own values and other people’s frailties. He may learn from such an episode that, whilst accepting every happiness that may come from external things and persons, he should not rely on them as fundamental and primary, and that only the divine inward self can hold such a rank safely. He may learn also that the more the ego resents the cause of its misery, the more it resists the lessons involved—the more it suffers. In short, the event will provide a chance to correct his values, jump to a higher standpoint, and effect spiritual progress.

The past is wholly unalterable and the present is largely conditioned by it. But the future is less so and therefore more malleable. To grieve over past self-made misfortunes is useful only insofar as it leads to a confession of error, to the detection of weaknesses in character which led to the error, and to active effort to eliminate those weaknesses. How far past deeds may be countered by present thinking is both a variable and indeterminate point. In the study of our own past experi­ences there is wisdom waiting for us. In the acceptance of its lessons there is strength to be got by us, and in the endeavour to comprehend why certain misfortunes have happened to us there is a practicality to be acquired.

If we go out of our way to do good to others and impose restraint upon ourselves, we thereby help to atone for past sins and to lessen the karma they would otherwise have brought us.

Karma and Right Timing

We learn from karma the grave importance of right timing. He who does the correct thing at the wrong time is not far from the position of the man who does the wrong thing altogether.

There are forces which predetermine our destiny and we must know when to win battles—like Napoleon—by retreating, by submitting to Fate’s decree. In the last chapter of The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga, a technique used by expert boxers was recommended as supply­ing an excellent principle wherewith to meet the unavoidable blows of a bad karmic cycle. Another illustration of this point which will be helpful is ju-jutsu, whose principle is to conquer an adversary by giving way to him in so skilful a manner that he is forced to use his own strength either to defeat himself or to injure his own muscles. So we may conquer unalterable bad karma by yielding to it for a time but finally drawing from it such wisdom and reaction that we rise higher than before.

“When the superior man gets his time, he mounts aloft; but when the time is against him he moves as if his feet were entangled.” Thus spoke Lao Tzu to Confucius during a memorable interview.

As a man grows older—whether in years or in earthly embodi­ments—he will begin to pay attention to the invisible line of cause and effect which exists between his deeds and their later consequences upon himself and upon others, which means that he will become more prudent and more deliberate, less likely to act upon mere impulse and more likely to act upon calm consideration.

For the student all life must be a process of trial and error, repeated again and again although with diminishing frequency until at long last he matures into the ripe understanding of the sage. Meanwhile he should remember well those ethical errors which some call sins and reflect well over their lessons, as he should remember the sufferings which were their inevitable if belated fruit.

It is the part of wisdom to learn when to attack difficulties with a bold front and when to circumvent them by patience or cunning. There is a right time for all events. If they are brought about too early, then the consequences will be a mixture of good and bad, just as if they were brought about too late. If, however, one has the patience to wait for the right moment, and the wisdom to recognize it, then the results will be unmixed good. Karma comes into play as soon as a suitable combination of factors occurs. There is no real escape from the conse­quences of our deeds, therefore, but only an apparent escape.

Karma and Environment

Philosophy is not so foolish as to deny the power and importance of environment, but it adds that the mental attitude towards physical environment is still more important. If this be one of full dependence on it, then the man will be its slave and victim; but if his attitude is one of noble dependence on his inner self, then in part he will be its master. Some part of man is the product of his changing environment, but there is another part which most certainly is not. Sometimes the environment must needs be greater than the individual, but sometimes the individual can prove greater than the environment.

Even if no man should submit to domination by his environment, neither can he be divorced from it. Cruelly hindering or favourably helping him as it does, he cannot fail to be influenced by it. How much has it not meant to a tired, dispirited, and depressed worker of the low-paid levels to find, on his return home in the evening, a bright cheerful room with soothing walls, shapely furniture, and pleasantly patterned rugs? Environment does count.

A man’s surroundings help to bring out his innate qualities or to prevent their manifestation, but they do not create such qualities. If they did, geniuses could be made to order in every school and studio.

Karma and Suffering

Suffering is the inescapable accompaniment to life. War merely throws this truth in vivid and spectacular fashion upon the screen of human consciousness whereas its ordinary operation is slow, grinding, and sporadic.

Once a man has been burnt by fire he cannot be tempted to put his fingers into a flame—no matter how beautiful its colour or how attractive its warm glow. The suffering and pain of his previous error live too strongly within his memory because they live in the form of knowledge. He does not merely believe but he knows that fire will burn and cause him pain. He does not even have to experiment a second time with the same error, because the knowledge has sunk into his very being. In the same way, the man who knows his essential unity through the Overself with all other men will not commit the error of injuring even a single person; on the contrary he will find powerful motivation for altruistic behaviour. He knows that in injuring others he will ultimately injure himself; for the infallible law of retribution will bring back to him either the pain or the blessings which he bestows on others. So perfect is his sympathy with all living creatures, whether human or non-human, that he seeks to avoid bringing hurt to any of them; on the contrary he takes pleasure in improving their welfare. This attitude comes through a knowledge of the reality of the underlying oneness of life, a knowledge which is neither blind faith nor pious hope and can be discovered through the ultimate path alone. The unfortunate ignorance of this all-important truth is responsible for the awful spectacle of a world arrayed in two camps ready to annihilate each other out of existence. No amount of prayers to an all-too-distant God can save mankind from such catastrophes, but it certainly can be saved by the intellectual acceptance of the truth of unity as a prelimi­nary step towards its ultimate realization. It therefore becomes the bounden duty of everyone of us who has intellectually perceived this truth to devote some fragment of his time at least towards giving others an opportunity of becoming acquainted with it. If a man’s destiny—the fragment of fate apportioned to him—desires him to achieve a certain task, a particular mission, then—however much he may dally in secluded retreat—it will provide him with an inner com­pulsion that at the appointed hour will drag him from retirement into the public arena again. Even if the task has been distant from his desire and concealed from his conscious mind during all previous years, he will still have to obey this unexpected inner force, this overwhelming bidding which is but the voice of destiny making itself heard in this way. Yes, paradoxically one carries one’s fate within one’s self. Karma needs to send no attorney to plead its cause at the bar of man. All his­tory reveals the truth in the long run. The world must learn and those of us who know must teach that every evil deed will infallibly bring an aftermath of suffering. “What will be the next form of religion?” A. E. [George William Russell] was asked a few days before he died. “A religion of ethics,” he replied. This means a religion based on the doctrine of karma.

“The wicked deed which was done by the wicked hearted in glee; its consequences are reaped by them in the fullness of time with cries,” said Buddha.

Every deed carries its own consequences with it. If we have made a mistake or wronged someone by any course of action, then the sooner trouble comes to warn us off further errors along the same road, the better. We should welcome it as a guiding finger. When life is hard and trying, we must peer beneath its surface. Is a bad attitude or bad outlook holding us in chains? The real self may be rejoicing while the surface self is weeping. For we are put here on earth to seek the perfect. As personalities we are certainly sufferers, but as the cosmic self we are sublime spectators.

Experience enlightens man, but it may do so with exasperating slowness if the man is ethically immature and mentally unevolved. He does not really need new experience so much as a right understanding of old experience. If he is unresponsive, stubborn, or foolish, then nothing but further experience will teach him. Therefore it is our task to assist him by explaining to him the inner significance of his own experiences, by making available to him in simple form the philosophic fruits of our own wealthier and lengthier experience.

If a man learns the lessons of his past mistakes, then the suffering they brought him will not have been in vain. If he does not learn, then he will go on from disaster to disaster. When he becomes truly teach­able, then he can retrieve disaster. If we do not bring reason to our experience it remains barren. Both joy and suffering fail to yield up their secret and the heart is devastated by periodic tumults in vain. Joy rarely comes alone. It is as often followed by sorrow as a man walking in sunlight is followed by his shadow. The foolish are always embittered and unenlightened by such suffering, whereas the wise are always mellowed and instructed by it. The misfortunes of life come from our past karma; the misery that we feel because of them comes from our own blindness. We beat our breasts because we do not understand.

The general conditions of the wars with their aftermath have brought the problem of suffering to the forefront of thinking. Why do we suffer? This becomes the question whose answer is being sought with an earnestness and sincerity which can find satisfaction only in the doctrines of karma.

How we react to the circumstances in which we find ourselves is a plain sign of our spiritual status. It is in times of stress that we are tested as to whether we have built into our character the qualities needful to deal wisely with life’s difficulties, or are still depending on the many kinds of escapism. No human life is wholly free from trouble. God has ordained it to be part of our existence and no mystical path can alter this. What can be altered is our reaction to it.

Suffering is one of nature’s processes for showing man where he has indulged in wrong-doing. If he will not give up his sins, nature brings their consequences home to him through painful experiences. The man who is incapable of self-rectification will be brought to it by external experience, and he who has failed to develop a sense of spiritual respon­sibility will be tested by suffering. Until a man adequately repents and tries to undo the harm he has caused, the troubles he has and will have to undergo are of his own making.

It would be unnatural and inhuman if those who seek a spiritual pathway out of their worldly woe did not feel so keenly about it. Nevertheless, it is for them to remember the eternal principles whilst the storms are raging, to remember that they are fundamentally divine and deathless, and to hold firmly to the faith that the ultimate triumph of good over evil is inescapable. The day will come when time shall have healed their deepest wound and when they shall view their world ­experience serenely from the mountaintop, as in their Overself they already do. In the end such experience teaches them to depend on nothing and nobody for their happiness.

When a dark hour descends on us we should turn inward at once and there find the true help. When some dark trouble touches our life, when depression, suffering, anxiety, fear, or even temptation threaten to overwhelm us, we must follow this practice of instantly turning inward and seeking the true Self. We shall find at the end of our search peace, contentment, wisdom, strength, courage and love. In short, we have to train ourselves automatically to turn inward whenever we are confronted by seeming misfortune, apparent injustice or undue temp­tation. Then whatever action we are to take will be guided from within and will necessarily be right because dictated not by human intellect but by higher wisdom. It is not that the divine self will always put matters right for us of its own accord when we turn to it in thought, but that it will often inspire us to take the necessary physical measures which will produce successful results.

The day will come when we shall see this life in a new light and with that resign it to a higher power. In our innermost being there is the Real—unaffected, eternal, sublime. It seeks our love and gives to us its own. It wishes us to sacrifice to itself, but the sacrifice is to be deep in the heart, secret and unspoken. It is the Overself. Offer everything on the altar, prayerfully, and include all those problems of frustration and defeat. When the answer comes, as it must eventually, we shall experi­ence a tremendous relief. It will be as a burden vanished.

The enforced cessation from external activity which illness or impris­onment may bring can be a help to spiritual awakening. A few months before he died, Oscar Wilde said, “I have lived all there was to live. I found the sweet bitter and the bitter sweet. I was happy in prison because there I found my soul.” Illness is a bitter karma which must be worked out, but if this lesson is learnt the suffering is not in vain.

Man makes some of his troubles by negative thinking, by being too egoistic in his human relationships, by failing to sink the “I” and to put himself in the other man’s position. When he admits the source of many troubles to be within himself, then his chance of banishing them becomes brighter. Troubles are the outer sign of inward malady.

A man must have the courage to refuse to make something else the scapegoat for his own guilt. It is an equally grave error to ascribe to fate’s compulsion or God’s will what is merely man’s way.

It is when outer torments of life shatter inner resistance that the need for spiritual things is acknowledged. And the more unsatisfactory outward life becomes, the more satisfactory will the blessed inward life seem both by contrast and in itself.

Those who have enough of the good things of life, or those who have made an easy passage through circumstances, are usually suffi­ciently satisfied with themselves and with the external world. Whilst they are running from one different satisfaction to another, beginning each experience under the pathetic delusion that it is the ultimate one and ending with the rueful knowledge that it is not, they are unable to listen to the voice of a wisdom immeasurably older than they are. It is those who have suffered frustration, deprivation, and misfortune who want to escape from themselves and the world. Their hopes have died and their courage has departed. When their disappointment is deep and permanent, they will have the ears to hear.

The true seers always have the courage to look facts in the face and to admit that life on earth must touch suffering at some point. They teach man how to sustain himself when this happens, and how so to instruct himself by its lessons that the troubles of this earthly life are transmuted into wisdom and strength.

They who do not yet aspire to be delivered from animal enslavement and human ignorance cannot fail to be goaded into such aspiration by life itself. If they could understand aright their experiences of good and evil, of mind and body, as in the course of evolutionary flow they certainly shall one day, they would understand that they were trying to find themselves. The quest of the Overself may not be clearly conscious in their minds, but it is there nevertheless and actuating the whole life movement.

Man does not endure certain troubles or disappointing experiences during life without a particular reason for each one. If he takes the trouble to learn the reason he can conquer the experience and strengthen his character, or he can permit the experience to conquer him and to worsen his character. Through many and widely varied experiences man is given opportunity to build his capacities of thought and judgement, will and intuition. Experiences rightly handled can become effective means for his passing from a lower to a higher stand­point. Every experience should be exploited for its lessons, whether it be painful or pleasurable, as a novelist might exploit it for story material.

It should be realized that the situations which arise in life are often in some obvious or hidden way self-created, and should therefore be faced courageously and correctly analysed. They may then throw significant light upon character; and although it may not be possible to change them overnight, it is possible to experiment upon them with a different mental attitude and to perceive the helpfulness to inner development of outward adversity, personal antagonisms, and peril.

Mental peace can come only by paying the price for it, and part of that price is the freeing of oneself from over-dependence on externals. The mind must be freed from worry and anxiety instead of yielding in hopeless submission to them. This will invoke and assist the protective forces. All bitter thoughts towards other individuals must be banished. Love must be given whether or not it is returned, and given equally to the weak and the strong. A rich inner compensation awaits those who can endure in this way.

Everything that happens to us teaches this lesson of non-attachment, which must be learnt through reflection and tested by experience. As the Buddha taught, we must learn and relearn to let things go and keep unattached, recognizing the evanescent quality of all earthly existence. It is the mercy of mother nature that all suffering, however hard, shares this evanescence. At the end—as now for the few—there is unbroken calm, the eternal peace of a consciousness that is not personal self­-consciousness.

Everyone has something to teach us. The lives, perceptions, and experience of other men, and the lessons of past events when remem­bered and reflected upon, may contribute towards our guidance and help to point out to reason the proper course that should be followed in the future.

It must needs be that we acquire our virtues through struggle and pain when we fail to acquire them through reflection and perception. Thoughtlessness and carelessness have to be paid for. If we will not heed the voice of reason and goodwill, we must suffer the whip of affliction. But we are not compelled to wait for painful blunders to show us our folly. Reason is a pleasanter way and a shorter route than the long circle of satiety, repulsion, and equilibrium.

Although one of the first qualities a man must foster is the capacity to learn from his past mistakes, he should not allow the past to imprison him. He should look backward only that he may look for­ward more clearly when considering what his duty is. The man who has the capacity to make new beginnings which cut across a faulty past is the man who can go far on this path.

There is no absolute certainty about anything in this life and no security in any situation. Such things are unattainable. Only relative certainty and security are possible, but if merely external they will prove inadequate. They must also be gained in an inward sense by keen thought and controlled emotion, by communion with the diviner self.

The philosophic prize of utter self-possession is far greater and more to be treasured than any which ambition can offer or desire suggest. It holds a happiness unknown in other ways, and against the misfortunes and difficulties of worldly existence it gives inner reserves of a kind unknown to materialistically minded men. He who has gained this prize is inwardly protected against the buffeting of fortune’s waves or the arrows of human malice. “He who hopes for nothing can never know despair” are words spoken by Caesar in Egypt. Where there are neither desires nor expectations there can be no disappointments.

Misery will be the result of continuing to ignore philosophy. Seren­ity will be the result of living by its teaching.

When a man turns in full surrender towards his Overself, he can learn of its power to overcome trouble by the poise which descends upon him and by the change in material things. He may not always come successfully out of any situation, in a material sense, but he will do so always in a spiritual sense.

The Overself speaking as the Christ in man says, “Come unto me all ye that are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” And speaking as the Krishna in man it says, “Take refuge in me alone. I will liberate thee from all sins, grieve not.”

Nothing but the soul’s realization can bring man a total happiness. It releases him from hidden fears of the woes of terrestrial existence; it frees his mind about all concern for the future, and out of the vast depths of his own being he can draw all the wisdom he needs to meet it. In gaining this knowledge of the hidden truth of his own being he enters into real freedom.

Karma and Prediction

In recent years the world has witnessed such a large and rapid growth of belief in astrology as must stagger a sober historian. So many popular newspapers have devoted a column to it, so many astrological booklets emulating Old Moore’s Almanac have appeared, that it is not too much to say the interest in the subject has assumed the proportions of a flood. One explanation is the general state of international insecurity and instability, and the private anxiety and worry which prevailed after the world economic depression. But there are other reasons for the great uprising of belief in astrology. There is the unconscious or half­-conscious need of the masses for a means of interpreting both the stirring world-events and their own personal distresses on lines more satisfactory than the traditional religious or contemporary scientific ones. The religious viewpoint is inadequate intellectually and the scien­tific one is inadequate emotionally. Most other old standbys have also proved insufficient. Astrology helps them arrive at such an inter­pretation because of its chief implications, which are supposedly proved every time a prediction is fufilled. These are (a) that there is a higher power guiding the destinies of mankind, (b) that life survives after death, and (c) that there is a rough justice in life. Without endorsing the mass of superstitious rubbish which takes shelter under the name, nor the mass of charlatanic practice and exploitation accompanying it, it is true to say that astrology demands as a complementary doctrine the teaching of karma and rebirth. Therefore the present wave of interest in star lore is an oblique attempt to satisfy human need for this important teaching of which the Western world has been so cruelly robbed for many centuries.

Astrology cannot be considered a completely reliable guide in every­day life, despite the exaggerated claims made by astrologers. As a body of knowledge it is imperfect and incomplete. As a practical art of prediction it is inefficient and uncertain. Therefore nobody should stake all his faith in astrological readings and prophecies alone, or he will be taking terrible risks. But this is not to say that astrology is mere superstition as its opponents claim, or utter humbug as the worldly­-wise assert. It can provide, if the exact moment of birth be known, many useful indications about a person’s character, capacities, tendencies, and temperament. To a much lesser extent it can provide also indications of some—but not all—of the major karmic oppor­tunities, difficulties, etc. likely to occur.

The correct appraisal of a horoscope is to regard it as an indicator of circumstances earned and character formed in earlier births. It is delu­sion to regard its planetary positions as irresistible forces driving a man unfailingly into those experiences and that character.

We may watch our horoscope if we please, take note of the fate written in our palm if we wish, but we must remember that these things do not displace the need for wise living, moral discipline, and right thinking. We should keep first things first and trust the soul’s leadings more than the astrologers’ warnings or the palmists’ promises. The grace of God sought and found, good character and high ideals will be better safeguards through life’s maze than any fortune-teller’s predictive counsel.

“I forbid you, O Bhikshus, to employ any spells or supplication, for they are useless, since the law of karma governs all things. That mendi­cant does right to whom omens, meteors, dreams, and signs are things abolished; he is free from all their evils.” So said the Buddha to a disciple when explaining “Amitabha” to him.

“Star gazing and astrology, forecasting lucky or unfortunate events by signs, prognosticating good or evil, all these things are forbidden,” said the Buddha to Ananda.

When you become unconcerned about your horoscope; when you cease to run after fortune tellers; when you begin to let the future take care of itself, then you have found peace. But when you become anxious about the future, when you are filled with regrets about your past sufferings, then you are living in time; you become one of the creatures of time and you suffer the pains of time.

Gullible people gasp in awe when a prediction is fulfilled. They look upon it as a miracle. They do not know the immense number of predic­tions which were falsified by events and which passed in consequence into silent oblivion. It would be a miracle indeed if out of the mass of prophecies some proportion failed to obtain fulfilment.

Whoever expects anyone perfectly to predict all events expects him by implication to know everything that exists in the world, that is to be as omniscient as a God. No human being, not even a sage, could honestly claim such omniscience.

The old Hindu texts say astrology is no longer reliable when a person abandons his worldly life for a spiritual one. No astrological horoscope and no psychic clairvoyance dare utter any word about his future with certainty. From the moment when the Overself takes full possession of a man so that in the old sense his thoughts, feelings, and acts are not really his own, it becomes responsible for the working out of his past karma. From that moment indeed the course of his external life and earthly fortunes is unpredictable.

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