Karma – part 1

“Karma is the expression of the law of equilibrium and nature is always working to restore that equilibrium whenever through man’s acts it is disturbed. Karma creates nothing, nor does it design. It is man who plans and creates and causes, and karmic law adjusts the effects. Karma neither rewards nor punishes. It only restores lost harmony.”

Robert: Welcome to Inner Sight. Our theme for today is karma, part one. Even in this modern age of technology and breakthroughs of understanding in science, all we seem to really believe in is what we can feel, touch, and see, and we fail to realize that there are invisible laws that are very profound. God forbid that we decide we don’t believe in the law of gravity, and we try to go against it; we’re going to be in a lot of pain. But karma is another invisible law that does exist. It’s very profound and it affects all of humanity. I like this thought from an individual by the name of Christmas Humphreys and it’s about karma: “Karma is the expression of the law of equilibrium and nature is always working to restore that equilibrium whenever through man’s acts it is disturbed. Karma creates nothing, nor does it design. It is man who plans and creates and causes, and karmic law adjusts the effects. Karma neither rewards nor punishes. It only restores lost harmony.” And that’s something that’s intriguing because it makes me feel as though whenever we do something that’s outrageously wrong or dramatically incorrect, even though people aren’t watching, that there is a law of karma and somehow whatever we’ve done that’s wrong will come back in such a way as to bring it into balance. What does karma really mean? 

Sarah: I think it’s a term that is used and probably misused a great deal today. The word is a Sanskrit word; it’s becoming more and more often heard in the Western world, but I’m not sure we really understand what we mean by it. Perhaps the best synonym would be the law of cause and effect. Another way of defining it might be, the effects of consequences; the enacting of consequences, results. Karma is said to be the law of retribution, and what’s interesting to me, when you think about that, is the sense of punishment and of getting back that is implied in the word retribution. And yet literally, retribution means to recompense or to return. It isn’t necessarily bad; it’s simply the return of something. You give out and you get back a like quality. But now more and more we think of retribution as punishment—maybe because our consciences are telling us something. But it simply means, literally, to pay back or bestow in return. 

Dale: Yes, it isn’t really punishment in the sense that it’s trying to achieve a balance. What we have at work here are natural forces of energies and forces, and nature is always trying to achieve a certain balance. And that is true with the forces that we employ, our own forces, our own energies. If we get a little overly emotional and go off the track, then that has karmic effects and there is a natural balance that attempts to come back into existence. You mentioned the term karma as being a Sanskrit word and it means: to do or to make. So, you can see from that, it means to do or to make right or make it back into balance, you might say. 

Sarah: Would another way of looking at that definition be that it’s the effect of action? Anytime we act, do, create, or move, there are effects set in motion, right? 

Dale: Right. Not only physical actions, but more and more—particularly in the West—it’s thoughts that also become the cause for actions. So, our thoughts are also engaged in karma and there is a karmic effect implied in a lot of the thoughts. 

Sarah: I think the Alice Bailey teachings say that “Energy follows thought.” That’s all karma is.  

Dale: Right. And let’s say, as an example, that we’re beginning to think negative thoughts. These are thoughts that have a particular outcome. If we allow these thoughts to exist and we keep feeding this anger or negativity, then it may lead to some physical action that we’ll regret. Also, it says in the Bailey books about thoughts of hatred and anger, that they will come back upon the person, that there is a boomerang effect. That is a very strong karmic indication because the energy you put out can bounce right back to you. 

Robert: So, you’re saying that even our thoughts come into the law of karma? 

Dale: I would say so, yes.  

Sarah: Your mention of anger made me think of something I read in The New York Times recently about people who have problems with anger management, as I think it’s called euphemistically these days—people who get in trouble for road rage and beating up the bus driver and that kind of thing. Instead of being imprisoned, they’re sent to anger management sessions as part of their punishment by the courts. And the people who give this anger therapy were commenting in this article about how little these people seem to understand of personal responsibility, and that told me something about karma. One person, a therapist, was quoted as saying that basically these people think of their situation as going along, minding their own business, and something happened to them and they don’t understand why it was done to them. All they know is now they’re in trouble with the law. I thought, that’s so human and so kind of pathetic, really, that people aren’t able to see the personal responsibility they had, which was created by their inability to control their temper, and that they might have had a hand in the situation themselves, even if the other person seemed to be the aggressor. 

Dale: Yes, it means being very honest with yourself and tracing back to the original cause, and that means sometimes looking at yourself very hard, very definitely and being very honest and truthful with your part in that little episode or incident, whatever it might have been. You may not be so innocent as you seem to think. 

Sarah: That requires a kind of ruthless self-honesty and karma is the results and consequences of our actions, but we don’t necessarily recognize them as such. Most people probably think life is just something that happens to you. 

Dale:  In the Bailey teachings, there is something called the Evening Review, and that also is a good exercise in looking at one’s karma or the day’s events. You trace back the day’s events to the cause of incidents that may have happened and you try to see the truth and where it all began. And if you’re implicated in this, then you try to change from that point of view. 

Sarah: One thing I wonder about today is the tendency of people to see themselves as victims. Not only individuals, but groups tend to regard themselves as poorly done by, oppressed, put upon. It may very well be true in some cases, but putting oneself in that position of victim is passive and it could be slightly immature, I think, because again, it’s not taking responsibility or not seeing one’s own responsibility for the direction of one’s life. Regardless of what one’s circumstances are, we do have free will and we do have responsibility for living the best, most upright life we can. And if we’re seeing ourselves as victims, then we’re saying, “There’s nothing I can do. The lot I was dealt is a bad one and life is unfair.” 

Dale: That reminds me of the ancient Buddhist text from the Dhammapada that says, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought,” and I think that’s very true. We “create our own reality,” as they say today. 

Robert: Is there a difference between karma and fate? I very often hear the two more or less intertwined as though they were synonymous, so is there a difference, and where does free will come into this? 

Sarah: Well, I think there is a difference. Karma does not imply that there is nothing you can do about what happens to you in life, that it’s just going to happen to you regardless of what you would like. That’s the kind of fatalistic view of life that I don’t think is very creative or very constructive in the positive sense. Karma is a process set in motion in the past, which brings results and consequences in the future, or perhaps in the present, if you can recognize it now. But it doesn’t mean that you have no control over your response to what happens. And maybe that’s where all the difference lies. Life sometimes deals us difficulties, sometimes brings great blessings, but always we have the choice of how we respond, how we react, and what use we make of it. Somebody said that “Human life is the interaction of fate and the freedom of choice.” And that’s interesting. Fate—there’s a certain destiny to our lives, but there’s also free will. The freedom of how we choose to respond to what happens to us. 

Dale: I think in some cases that this idea of karma can become, well, it can lead to a kind of fatalism, isn’t that true? And I believe this is the case in India today; there is such a sense of karma, that “I am what I am and I’ll leave it up to my next life to take care of it,” kind of thing. And so, what develops is a fatalism that doesn’t create any kind of movement, and free will isn’t really exercised in that case. I think there is a slight difference between karma and fate, but they are related. 

Sarah: There’s another aspect to this; it was brought out by the religious writer and teacher Houston Smith. He made the comment once that people count a great deal on luck in the way that they live their lives, and when you think about it, it’s probably true. We go through life hoping for the best, probably assuming that a great deal of what is going to happen to us is not really under our control, but God willing and all things being equal, we’ll get a good break. And that’s kind of a misunderstanding of karma too. That’s kind of fatalistic because with that view, you’re not seeing the future and your destiny as something that you can control. Of course, this whole subject of karma, in my opinion, is very full of paradoxes and what Dale and I can do today is simply offer some points of view and probably we’ll be contradicting ourselves at various stages along the way, because it’s a very profound spiritual concept. I certainly don’t have the answers and I have found in my study of spiritual writings on the subject that there are contradictions among different religions regarding karma. But I think everyone would agree that where we do have control is in how we choose to respond to our circumstances. And in effect, that is where all the difference comes, because that’s where we can create change and where we can set in motion new patterns, new cycles, and new energies, by the way we handle what we are given in this present moment. 

Dale: Yes. And I keep going back to the opening thought where it says, “Karma neither rewards nor punishes, it only restores lost harmony.” If you keep that in mind, then you look at your life in terms of balance and harmony, and when you get out of balance, then there are natural forces that try to correct that imbalance, and that’s essentially all that’s really happening. So, we have to keep that in mind. 

Robert: Well, it’s an interesting topic. I’m fascinated as we learn more about karma, and I suppose there may even be karma for the environment. One hopes that all the pollution, poisons, and toxins that mankind is permeating throughout the world, that perhaps there will be a homeostasis or balance brought into effect as a result of karma, in regard to the sin that mankind is committing—if sin is the right word. The Bible speaks of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Is that somehow related to karma? 

Sarah: Well, I suppose it could be misconstrued as an interpretation of karma—that you pay back like with like—but in fact that’s incorrect if you think of the definition that Dale gave us, which is: the restoration of harmony, or the return to equilibrium. You can’t do that by paying back an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. You’re just perpetuating something with no end to its cycle. The Bible might have given a better definition of karma, where Jesus taught that when men persecute you and smite you on the cheek, you should turn the other cheek. People might not think of this as a good definition of karma, or a response to karma, but it seems to me it might be. I don’t know if I can explain this very clearly, but I’ve been thinking about martial arts and whether that has a relation to karma. In martial arts, you don’t respond to force by trying to oppose that force. If I understand it, you work with the force of your so-called opponent, and go with it in the sense of using it as a means of turning it back upon him. Well, maybe what Jesus was trying to say, in response to an attack, to turn the other cheek is to end the cycle of violence or aggression by returning it with love. I don’t know. Do you have any thoughts on that? 

Dale: Well, for ages the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth has been the law of the jungle, so to speak, and it’s still the law in some places in the world. You mentioned earlier about road rage. That’s an eye for an eye kind of thing. People always want revenge for something that’s done to them and they think they need to take revenge and to get back at this person. They just counter it with more violence, so all it does is perpetuate the endless cycle of violence and it never gets out of that cycle. It never brings resolution; it never brings a state of balance because it’s always using one violent act to counter another violent act. It’s just like the pendulum swinging back and forth, but it never stops at an equilibrium point. 

Sarah: And I think that equilibrium comes with bringing in a higher energy, which is what was behind Jesus’s message; that bringing in the energy of the soul, of spiritual power, corrects all injustice and puts right all wrongs. But this requires that we trust in the power of divine law, and most people want to settle things right now. They want to seek correction right now, and they’re not willing to wait and trust in the working of evolution and in the inner scales of justice, which have their own cycle and their own time. You know that statement, “The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.” Maybe that’s a good definition of karma. It occurs in its own time frame and in its own cycle and we have to trust that, and not get ourselves swept into a response on the same level as the aggression occurred. 

Robert: Sarah, does that have anything to do with the phrase in the Bible where it said that “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord”? Would that be karma also? 

Sarah: Well, I think that’s implying trust in the higher law. There’s a divine law that will work, but according to its own cycle and not according to our own preferences. 

Robert: That’s interesting. Does karma effect only individuals? 

Sarah: No, there’s group karma. There’s national karma. We are swept up into all kinds of karma, and this is part of what makes this subject so complex and so deep. It has to do with energy and force; karma is the expression of energy and force and we are not alone in the world as I think we all realize. We are part of groups, part of relationships, part of a planetary web of life. All of these different forces and energies are impacting on each other and we are all swept up in it, so it’s definitely not just individual. 

Dale: As you say, it’s group karma, it could be national karma. Every nation builds up a certain amount of karma by the decisions made by the leaders of that nation and the people of the nation. Even the whole planet itself is endowed by a certain kind of karma because of the very substance that the planet is made of, and that’s something we can’t escape because we’re part of this substance; we’re part of the planetary karma, in effect. 

Sarah: But we can serve it by the way we relate to the other kingdoms that share our planet. We can cooperate with evolution, or we can just use and plunder the planet. These are all choices available to us. And when you mentioned national karma, it brings to my mind how important it is to be a good citizen. It serves no purpose to just opt out and refuse to vote and to just complain about the government and to complain about the various powers that be and say, “Isn’t it all rotten?” We all are a part of this. We’ve all had a hand in creating the world, either by our passivity and our silent acceptance or by our overt action, but it’s been made by all of us. It hasn’t been imposed upon us. 

Robert: And we always think of karma as a negative. Is all karma bad? 

Sarah: No, there’s good karma too, and in fact the writings of Alice Bailey say that in fact we have much more good karma than bad to live through, but it all must be lived through. In other words, we are kept on the wheel of rebirth—to use a kind of Eastern expression—by the karma that has to unfold, and most of it, we’re told, is good. 

Dale: Yes, in fact, there are millions of instances of good karma happening every day. All the acts of goodwill and particularly in healing, and the Alice Bailey books mention this a lot, about the healing of energies; that karma brings into activity forces that may work out as healing energies in specific cases of healing. So that is, in a sense, putting something good into motion and bringing it back into balance. 

Robert: In closing, we invite you to ponder on this thought: Goodwill is the touchstone that will transform the world. Goodwill is love in action. It is the energy that draws us together in right relationship. There is a world prayer called the Great Invocation. It’s a call for light and love and goodwill to flow into the world and into our hearts. Let’s listen for a moment to these powerful words. 

Sarah: Closes the program with the adapted version of the Great Invocation.

(This is an edited transcript of a recorded radio program called “Inner Sight”. This conversation was recorded between the host, Robert Anderson, and the then President and Vice-President of Lucis Trust, Sarah and Dale McKechnie.)

(Transcribed and edited by Carla McLeod)




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