Karma – part 3

When the soul influence begins to make an impression on the outer personality, it is then that karma becomes neutralized, because that is indicative that one is on the path of enlightenment. One can begin to see cause and effect more directly in their lives, and that’s the beginning of wisdom on the path. 

Robert: Hello, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Inner Sight. Our topic today is karma part 3. Here’s a thought from Christmas Humphreys—we’ve taken a look at this thought before, but karma seems to be such a complex subject that it’s worth giving you time to absorb this thought— “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 causes, and karmic law adjusts the effects. Karma neither rewards nor punishes. It only restores lost harmony.” Once again, that’s from Christmas Humphreys, his book, Karma and Rebirth. Where does karma come from? 

Sarah: That’s almost impossible to answer because it’s such a complex pattern of action and reaction. It has its complexity in the fact that it may be something that we have inherited from the far distant past if we believe in the law of Rebirth. It also is difficult to identify as a source because our own destiny is tied in with the destiny of everything that is part of our planetary life, but especially with the destinies of our family and our people who are closest to us, with our group, and our nation, with the whole of humanity, in fact. So, there are these interlinked circles, if you thought of it that way, like the five Olympic rings. Our karma is a series of rings that intersect with the karma and destiny of everyone else. That, plus the fact that it’s so ancient; it’s very hard to say where it comes from. But we can say that whatever our life is, whatever is happening to us, whatever state we are in, our life and the life of everyone is the way it is because of how we have lived our life in the past, and that might seem a kind of a bitter pill for people to swallow if their life is difficult and challenged. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have been bad and have inherited a set of bad circumstances because they are bad people. That isn’t the case at all, but life is the way it is because of a series of choices and decisions and actions we set up in the past, and karma is essentially action. It’s the law of cause and effect. It’s the consequence of what we have chosen, set in motion at some point in the past, and that’s why it’s said that character is destiny. The kind of person we are, the kind of values and desires we hold, determine our future. So, at every point we’re determining our karma for the future. 

Dale: It’s said in the esoteric teachings that karma comes from many different experiences and memory banks. We all have what they call little memory banks, little energy centres within our nature, within our bodies, and it’s there that all the experiences are stored up. And we bring these little memory banks with us with every life and we are the result of all of our misperceptions, our illusions, and glamour. And some of which, as Sarah said, have been acquired in past lives and brought with us when we enter into this life. All of our phobias and fears are quite often of that kind of a nature, and sometimes something happens to you, you respond with an action or a word or a thought, and then this action leaves an imprint on your mind that soon becomes the cause for further karma, for further action, either good or bad. When you become accustomed to behaving and thinking in a certain way, you become conditioned in that way, and it’s a little bit like being stuck in a rut in the mud with your car, for example. You get stuck in the mud and the wheels start spinning and you go deeper and deeper into the mud, and all you’re doing is spinning your wheels and you’re not going anywhere. The only way to get out of this rut, to adjust your karma, is to exercise your free will. It takes a willingness to change, but you can change and recondition yourself to act with greater wisdom. 

Sarah: Another point to keep in mind about karma is that apparently we don’t see the effects of all of our accumulated karma at any particular point, in any particular lifetime. According to Alice Bailey, these karmic inheritances are pieced out by the soul, according to circumstances and depending on whether one can deal with the effects or the results of the accumulated karma in the particular lifetime. You know how it’s said that we’re never given a burden greater than what we can bear. I think that means that our karma is divinely determined by us, by our soul, by our higher self, but the effects bear fruit according to our resources and our ability to learn from it, our ability to correct. It’s not like a bucket of water over a door that’s suddenly dumped on us when we go through the door; not like that! There’s another aspect to karma too—when you ask where it comes from—that I think is important to consider and that’s the eastern Sanskrit word Dharma, which some of our listeners might have heard. Dharma, as I understand it, means among other things, one’s duty. And the fulfilling of one’s duty or one’s dharma is a right response to karma. It’s what the Buddhists call right conduct. There’s the Noble Eightfold Path, and one of the steps on that path is right conduct or right action. That’s another definition of dharma, doing what is in front of one to do, because one feels intuitively that it is one’s duty, one’s next step. And one should never try to usurp the duty of another person, even out of a desire to help. You can’t live their life for them. You can’t fulfill their responsibilities for them. You can only fulfill your own. 

Dale: It’s doing what needs to be done, and sometimes what needs to be done is to fulfill the purposes of the soul, if you can be sensitive to those purposes, because that’s what the soul brought you into this life to accomplish. Sometimes it’s very obvious, sometimes it isn’t. 

Sarah: You look for it, I think, in your present circumstances, not down the road or not in an “if only” kind of fantasizing way about how different life could be and how much better it could be. You find your dharma and the results of your karma in your present circumstances. Just look around you. Look at the state you’re in, look at the obligations right in front of you, awaiting your dutiful co-operation; there you find it. 

Dale: Yes, and look around and see the opportunity. It may look like a hopeless situation, but maybe you’re placed there for a particular reason. So, there is an opportunity there that is waiting for you to work it out. 

Robert: I can see how people can be very disturbed by karma in a way because I’m sure that there are many people who have been harmful and done harmful things to other people, and they feel that they haven’t gotten caught and no one has noticed it. But according to what I’m perceiving about the effect and the laws of karma, whether or not society sees you commit the evil or set forth the harmful action towards another person is irrelevant to karma. Karma will bring it back into balance somehow. Is that correct? 

Sarah: Well, yes, karma is the achievement of a divine balance or equilibrium, and that’s the essence of justice. 

Robert: We talked a little bit last time about national and group karma. Can you say more about that? 

Sarah: Well, we touched on a situation we see in the world today where whole groups of people are caught up in a kind of unfinished karma. For example, in the former Yugoslavia. The terrible war between the different groups there goes back to perceived injustices on all sides, maybe five hundred years ago or more. And in Ireland and in the Middle East. There is this national karma that we are all swept up in as members of our nations, because we’re not little islands unto ourselves. And it’s the kind of thing that demagogues make hay with, playing upon this sense of group injustice, group vengeance, that leads to some of the real evils in the world. 

Dale: I think one good example of group karma would be the experience of World War II. There were millions and millions of people, both in the military and civilians, who gave their lives for a very worthy cause, and they were all swept up into this great vortex of forces between good and evil. That was a very dramatic demonstration of how a whole group of people could work together to readjust and bring back into balance the good forces in the world which were out of balance. There was a tremendous group cooperation; people weren’t aware of what they were doing in all of this but on the inner planes there were millions of souls making that transition all at once in a period of six or eight years, and that’s quite a dramatic working out of karma, bringing the world back into balance. 

Robert: I hear so often people blaming God. Is there any justification to that, and why do people blame God when bad things happen? 

Sarah: I’m not sure why, but I know I’ve done it myself in the past. I can remember as a very young person holding God responsible for the war in Vietnam. I cannot explain to you now thirty years later why I thought he was responsible for that, since clearly it was the creation of human beings, but remembering that, you can be sympathetic with people who do hold God responsible for their state in life. I suppose they feel that they have no control over their lives, and therefore no responsibility for their situation. But if you understand that we are, in the present, the product of how we have lived our life in the past, and that our character is our destiny, and if you believe—as the Ageless Wisdom teaches—that energy follows thought, then you have to look at yourself and your circumstances and say, “well, I made this and I can make it better if I so choose.” There’s really no way out of this need to take responsibility for one’s fate and circumstance, once you realize that life is made up of energies and forces that we wield according to our intentions and our desires. 

Dale: Yes, you often hear this expression of people blaming God, in the case of natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes, and times like that, when their house gets destroyed and their loved ones are killed. They ask, “why me and why now?” There’s no real good answer to that because this whole question of karma is so deep. Why do we live in a certain place in the world? Why do we live and build our houses on earthquake faults and why do we build our houses near rivers that always flood? So, there are choices here that one can make. I don’t know if that really answers the question. 

Sarah: It does in part, but I think it also suggests that we’re part of a great mystery that we really can’t fully plumb. You’re saying, “why me?” reminded me of a comment of a friend of mine who was listening to her sister go on and on with the litany of complaints about bad things that had happened to her. And she kept saying, “why me, why me?” Finally, my friend Rosemarie said, “well Abigail, why not you?” And in a way, it’s true. Why not you? Who would you wish your bad circumstances on? Would you rather that they happen to your neighbour or to someone else? We’re all a part of this and we’re all in it together and we don’t really know why this accumulated, interconnected karma has developed the way it has, but we human beings are related to each other and interrelated, and we make impacts on each other and I think karma really brings that home, that we share a common fate. We go down together or we survive together. I find that evokes a sense of hope in me because it means we can help and we can serve others. So, it’s a great mystery. I think Dale and I are really not making a lot of headway on this question. (laughter) 

Dale: No, but it goes back to this thing about opportunity too. I mean we tend to see the tragedy in these disastrous happenings, but maybe there’s an opportunity that God in his greater wisdom is trying to get us to see and trying to work out here. We have to look at this question that way too. 

Robert: Let me see if I’ve assimilated it. Is it correct to assume that these people that you’re speaking about, who experienced good or bad karma—that it’s really the result of their own past actions, the energies that they set forth? And perhaps part of karma is a learning experience, where we get straightened out, so to speak, about a particular wrong perception—is that the gist of what we’re talking about? 

Sarah: Well, in a sense it is, and I think we should point out that we’re all in the process of straightening ourselves out. We’re all in the process of correcting some imbalance as a result of past choices and actions. I don’t think any of us is in a position to point the finger at someone else. It’s part of being human; that we’re works in progress. The idea of karma, or the principle of karma as I understand it, is the restoration of a perfect equilibrium, and until we have achieved that spiritual perfection, we’re not going to find a non-karmic situation. 

Robert: I see. The only thing that disturbs me in my understanding of karma is the idea that it negates the freedom of choice. Does karma negate the freedom of choice? 

Sarah: No, really, it has everything to do with freedom of choice! Because, if we think of karma as something that we’re constantly creating by our choices, our values, our desires, our intentions, we realize that it’s all up to us and our free will—the future karma that we’re creating. It means that we have to watch our willfulness every time we get a bee in our bonnet, so to speak, and really go after something. We should be very aware and observant of our motives for doing so because we are no doubt generating new karma. Every time we have this powerful conviction of our rightness and our certainty, we should be very observant and very watchful. Sometimes I think it’s better to be in a perpetual state of self-doubt, because then you’re questioning yourself, you’re examining your motives. You do have the freedom of choice at all times, and this is the whole meaning behind—well, one of the meanings behind—the great Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita. There are many layers of meaning to the Bhagavad Gita, and I certainly am not able to plumb them all, but it’s the story of a representative of humanity named Arjuna and his conversations with Krishna the Lord, at a time of great warfare in ancient India. When the two sides that Arjuna was observing were engaged in war, he related to them both and he felt absolutely hamstrung about how to make a choice. He didn’t know where or with whom to fight. He didn’t know what the right choice was; what was the right action? He could see wrong consequences as a result of any decision he might make, and he really wanted to sit on the fence and not do anything. That’s not the response to karma either. We do have to choose and we have to make our choices freely and take responsibility for them. And Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita told him, you must fight, you must make a choice. Karma is action and we have to make choices and live through the fruits of our action. But our attitude about our actions and choices is where all the difference comes in, where we have the freedom, because if we learn to be dispassionate and detached from the fruits of our actions and simply make our choices because it’s the highest right we know, the highest and greatest good, then likely that will negate karma. As Krishna said to Arjuna, “your business is with action only, never with its fruits.” He told Arjuna that there is a skill in action that teaches us about karma. Not only is there action in inaction, but there’s inaction in action. And this might relate to martial arts, where sometimes inaction has its own action. 

Dale: Yes. And related to that, as you said, it takes free will. Arjuna couldn’t sit on the fence; he couldn’t sit still. He had to exercise his will in order to move forward. And that is the real key, I think. Where you have a weak will, then you’re just going to sit there and spin your wheels, as I was saying earlier, and you’re going to dig deeper and deeper and repeat the same patterns over and over again. It takes the strength of will to set a different course and to take command of the situation and make the right choices to move yourself along on the path of enlightenment. 

Sarah: And also, to remember that the greatest value is the inner underlying reality of pure spirit and to not be overwhelmed or over identified with what’s happening on the outer level of form. That was Arjuna’s problem. He was looking only at the consequences as they would affect people and things on the outer level of life, causing suffering and hardship, and he lost sight of the inner spiritual reality, which is where our real attention should be given. Krishna told him that when he could remember to focus on the inner reality, then he could fight and fight rightly, because he would be calling upon the soul’s resources, the inner warrior. 

Dale: And it’s said that when the soul influence begins to make an impression on the outer personality, it is then that karma becomes neutralized, because that is indicative that one is on the path of enlightenment. One can begin to see cause and effect more directly in their lives, and that’s the beginning of wisdom on the path. 

Sarah: Maybe also we should add that there are different types of karma and this freedom of choice has an effect on that. There’s karma that’s generated out of just deep ignorance, of being dense, and certainly all of us can identify with that. It’s corrected by experience and by greater knowledge. And then there’s the karma of a materialistic focus in life for too long a period of time, and that’s corrected by the development of the spiritual consciousness. But then there’s the karma when people deliberately, willfully, choose to harm and to selfishly serve the separated self, knowing full well that it will cause pain to others; that’s the worst kind of karma. And we have the freedom of choice to avoid all of them. 

Robert: Speaking of freedom of choice, we choose to stay on the air and keep on giving you these philosophical shows every week, but we must remember that this show is funded by the generous donations of our listeners. We need and welcome your support. 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 by reciting 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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