HOW KARMA WORKS
Jan 16, 2006 05:36 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck
1/16/2006 5:26 AM
What you say brings in these points of Theosophical doctrine to be
HOW KARMA WORKS
1 Immortality of each and every one of the MONADS.
2 Duality of Manas [Buddhi-Manas and Kama-Manas] when the "human"
stage is reached in the individual evolution of every Monad.
3 Sacrifice of Higher Self (ATMA-BUDDHI) for the sake of the Monads
(S D I 207-208 -- "GREAT SACRIFICE" as an example of this)
4 Personal Karma is only incurred by the embodied Mind -- Lower Manas
-- it is due to tamasic inertia, isolation and selfishness. It rejects the
brotherhood of all other immortal monads.
5 Karmic reactions (effects and present circumstances) are expressed
in terms of emotion and the psychic nature as educational and corrective of
that principle. This is because the fault and misapprehension occurs solely
in the area of the kamic and psychic nature of an evolving individual.
6 They (such reactions from Nature) stimulate Lower Mans to view them
impersonally (unselfishly) and then devise self-discipline to avoid
7 This encourages a thorough study of Laws of the Universe in all
departments. This, when successful, becomes our own personal WISDOM and adds
to the power of Buddhi-Manas as a universal principle in Nature.
8 It always encourages impersonality, universality and brotherhood as
the only basis for harmonizing our choices - and further, it emphasizes our
expecting no "personal return" for wise, just, and "honest" acts, thoughts
In every religion we find an equivalent to "Look inward, thou art Christ,"
or whomever is offered as a "saviour" so-called, within our ability to
express this concept of a Great and Perfect Being.
Also in "Voice": "Look inward, thou art Buddha."
And we find in the BHAGAVAD GITA Krishna says: "I am the Ego seated in the
hearts of all beings."
As I understand it, the Buddha or Christ within each of us is the HIGHER
SELF or Atma-Buddhi -- a "ray" or "spark" of the UNIVERSAL ONE SPIRIT.
BUDDHI, technically is the totally pure counterpart [IN Matter] of SPIRIT
(see GITA NOTES, Pp. 132-3). It is within each of us. Our selfish
personality obscures and hides it. Our selfish inclinations give us
trouble. Why ?
KARMA, as a generally used word, is "Action -- and a balanced
re-action." It is universal and impersonal. It our Universe it works
through the monads that fill the whole of SPACE. [ S D I 289 middle of
When a human, using his free-mind to formulate a motive and make a choice,
and further, does this in isolation for his own limited and selfish benefit,
(this is in the nature of a vicious motive, however slight) one opens the
door to "bad Karma." Only impersonal and wholly just and harmonious acts
(without expecting any personal benefit), emotions and thoughts (this is the
deliberate practice of virtue and is done in full control of the
inclinations of the lower-Mind or Kama-Manas) attract no adverse Karma.
Our past Karma embodied in the skandhas (monads we distorted in the
past by evil actions) returns to us under Law. It is an INCLINATION and not
a "compelling or overwhelming FORCE." It (the inclination) urges us to
continue to be selfish or to do evil to another.
It cannot compel us to do anything unless we fall under its influence again,
and repeat the errors of the past. If we do that, we reinforce the
Even then, at the moment of choice, the Voice of Conscience (Buddhi) warns
before we adopt any course of evil action.
As I see it, there are two points of view here
1 the personal -- to whom the situation and the choice are VERY REAL,
(not Mayavic at all) - it is for the present life's personal benefit, and,
2 the IDEAL -- i.e., the spiritual -- to whom, because of its
remoteness from any evil limitations, KNOWS it is (regardless of how long it
takes to resolve the problem) only a temporary life-time, and hence applies
the word / idea MAYA and MAYAVIC to it.
We are aware of these two view-points because our mind sees them both.
The lower mind tries to beguile us into thinking we can do evil and escape
its consequences. Religious systems are built of such concepts, untruths and
misapprehensions. A "God" that can be unjust to the victims of evil is the
ticket. And priests of all religions choose to perpetuate this evil
concept. They make a livelihood off it: they practice and teach: Keep the
people ignorant, fearful and dependent!
As I see it, those who have adopted the Buddhistic metaphysical doctrine of
MAYA (which spiritually is quite true) have not thought it through from
both these view points. Had they done so, the question of repetitive EVIL
acts would have been settled dong ago. I believe that we are situated here
so as to learn how to deal with such a duality and paradoxical situation.
Otherwise, in the economy of Nature, we would not be faced with it.
Simply put : it is utter foolishness to do any evil thing if we are
inevitably going to suffer from it under KARMA. But Kama as a principle
cannot think an has no ability of framing a potential fore-view of its
future. Hence, in its attempt to survive, it is continually trying to patch
up errors and provide defenses to support and prolong its continued
Contrary-wise, doing "good" is encouraged, and superior to that acting from
the basis of SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE covers everything. The Lower Self has to
study and learn this and then practise it.
At some point, in the sensitive consciousness of the Lower Self (Kama-Manas)
the "blinders" go on. And the lower self (as Kama "runs away" with Lower
Manas) thinks it can get away with some dastardly deed -- (vice arises).
Bluntly, the doctrine of the universal presence of the monads (ATMA-BUDDHI)
restores sanity. It does this because of the innate spirituality of all
beings. And those who are influenced to be vicious cannot escape this basic
fact. Spirit and Matter are inextricably mixed down to the least or the
greatest of areas, and for all time.
No individual or personal thought, feeling or act escapes the power of
imprinting every MONAD that our motive affects. Then, every such Monad
telegraphs the fact to every other -- and the whole of Nature becomes a
witness, and the specialized principle of the Akasa is forever imprinted
with the record.
The Monads, in the area of our imprinting action, become tortured and
distorted if our motive was evil, and the reverse, if it was good. As their
nature is such that they seek for growth in intelligence and justice under
the universal Light of Truth and Spirit, they automatically all work
together to try and readjust the perpetrator of their torture. Thus we find
our lives full of circumstances that are opportunities to learn, change and
So, if we, as independent "thinking Monads" turn against them, they fasten
even more securely to us until we release them by changing our own character
(Lower Manas) back to the spiritual way of honorable and impartial living,
thinking and behaviour. Of course the Lower Self (Lower Manas) does not
"like" this. But at this point, ought we to give any weight to its "likes?"
To be a Buddha, to me, is to strain every moment to keep the great
"wheel" of life in the Universe turning true and according to plan -- and
to give every Monad a chance to acquire it mental independence and the power
to act as an intelligent cooperator with the Universe and our world and each
That is BROTHERHOOD.
APHORISMS ON KARMA
(1) There is no Karma unless there is a being to make it or feel its
(2) Karma is the adjustment of effects flowing from causes, during which the
being upon whom and through whom that adjustment is effected experiences
pain or pleasure.
(3) Karma is an undeviating and unerring tendency in the Universe to restore
equilibrium, and it operates incessantly.
(4) The apparent stoppage of this restoration to equilibrium is due to the
necessary adjustment of disturbance at some other spot, place, or focus
which is visible only to the Yogi, to the Sage, or the perfect Seer: there
is therefore no stoppage, but only a hiding from view.
(5) Karma operates on all things and beings from the minutest conceivable
atom to Brahma. Proceeding in the three worlds men, gods, and the elemental
beings, no spot in the manifested universe is exempt from its sway.
(6) Karma is not subject to time, and therefore he who knows what is the
ultimate division of time in this Universe knows Karma.
(7) For all other men Karma is in its essential nature unknown and
(8) But its action may be known by calculation from cause to effect; and
this calculation is possible because the effect is wrapped up in and is not
succedent to the cause.
(9) The Karma of this earth is the combination of the acts and thoughts of
all beings of every grade which were concerned in the preceding Manvantara
or evolutionary stream from which ours flows.
(10) And as those beings include Lords of Power and Holy Men, as well as
weak and wicked ones, the period of the earth's duration is greater than
that of any entity or race upon it.
(11) Because the Karma of this earth and its races began in a past too far
back for human minds to reach, an inquiry into its beginning is useless and
(12) Karmic causes already set in motion must be allowed to sweep on until
exhausted, but this permits no man to refuse to help his fellows and every
(13) The effects may be counteracted or mitigated by the thoughts and acts
of oneself or of another, and then the resulting effects represent the
combination and interaction of the whole number of causes involved in
producing the effects.
(14) In the life of worlds, races, nations, and individuals, Karma cannot
act unless there is an appropriate instrument provided for its action.
(15) And until such appropriate instrument is found, that Karma related to
it remains unexpended.
(16) While a man is experiencing Karma in the instrument provided, his other
unexpended Karma is not exhausted through other beings or means, but is held
reserved for future operation; and lapse of time during which no operation
of that Karma is felt causes no deterioration in its force or change in its
(17) The appropriateness of an instrument for the operation of Karma
consists in the exact connection and relation of the Karma with the body,
mind, intellectual and psychical nature acquired for use by the Ego in any
(18) Every instrument used by any Ego in any life is appropriate to the
Karma operating through it.
(19) Changes may occur in the instrument during one life so as to make it
appropriate for a new class of Karma, and this may take place in two ways:
(a) through intensity of thought and the power of a vow, and (b) through
natural alterations due to complete exhaustion of old causes.
(20) As body and mind and soul have each a power of independent action, any
one of these may exhaust, independently of the others, some Karmic causes
more remote from or nearer to the time of their inception than those
operating through other channels.
(21) Karma is both merciful and just. Mercy and Justice are only opposite
poles of a single whole; and Mercy without Justice is not possible in the
operations of Karma. That which man calls Mercy and Justice is defective,
errant, and impure.
(22) Karma may be of three sorts: (a) presently operative in this life
through the appropriate instruments; (b) that which is being made or stored
up to be exhausted in the future; Karma held over from past life or lives
and not operating yet because inhibited by inappropriateness of the
instrument in use by the Ego, or by the force of Karma now operating.
(23) Three fields of operation are used in each being by Karma: (a) the body
and the circumstances; (b) the mind and intellect; the psychic and astral
(24) Held-over Karma or present Karma may each, or both at once, operate in
all of the three fields of Karmic operation at once, or in either of those
fields a different class of Karma from that using the others may operate at
the same time.
(25) Birth into any sort of body and to obtain the fruits of any sort of
Karma is due to the preponderance of the line of Karmic tendency.
(26) The sway of Karmic tendency will influence the incarnation of an Ego,
or any family of Egos, for three lives at least, when measures of
repression, elimination, or counteraction are not adopted.
(27) Measures taken by an Ego to repress tendency, eliminate defects, and to
counteract by setting up different causes, will alter the sway of Karmic
tendency and shorten its influence in accordance with the strength or
weakness of the efforts expended in carrying out the measures adopted.
(28) No man but a sage or true seer can judge another's Karma. Hence while
each receives his deserts, appearances may deceive, and birth into Poverty
or heavy trial may not be punishment for bad Karma, for Egos continually
incarnate into poor surroundings where they experience difficulties and
trials which are for the discipline of the Ego and result in strength,
fortitude, and sympathy.
(29) Race-Karma influences each unit in the race through the law of
Distribution. National Karma operates on the members of the nation by the
same law more concentrated. Family Karma governs only with a nation where
families have been kept pure and distinct; for in any nation where there is
a mixture of family - as obtains in each Kaliyuga period - family Karma is
in general distributed over a nation. But even at such periods some families
remain coherent for long periods, and then the members feel the sway of
family Karma. The word "family" may include several smaller families.
(30) Karma operates to produce cataclysms of nature by concatenation through
the mental and astral planes of being. A cataclysm may be traced to an
immediate physical cause such as internal fire and atmospheric disturbance,
but these have been brought on by the disturbance created through the
dynamic power of human thought.
(31) Egos who have no Karmic connection with a portion of the globe where a
cataclysm is coming on are kept without the latter's operation in two ways:
(a) by repulsion acting on their inner nature, and (b) by being called and
warned by those who watch the progress of the world.
Path, March, 1893
-- W Q Judge
JUSTICE and LAW
"Every Western Theosophist should learn and remember, especially those of
them who would be our followers - that in our Brotherhood all personalities
sink into one idea - abstract right and absolute practical justice for
all. And that, though we may not say with the Christian, "return good for
evil" - we repeat with Confucius, "return good for good; for evil -
JUSTICE." ... A dutiful regard for these rules in life will always promote
the best interests of all concerned."
Mahatma Letters, p. 401, Let # 85 [ No 120 ], January 1884
"Abolish the Courts themselves, for if you would follow the Commandments of
Christ, you have to give away your coat to him who deprives you of your
cloak, and turn your left cheek to the bully who smites you on the right."
Key on p. 55.
”Enq: But if by so doing, he risks to injure, or allow others to be injured?
What ought he to do then?
Theo: His duty; that which his conscience and higher nature suggests to
him; but only after mature deliberation. Justice consists in doing no
injury to any living being; but justice commands us also never to allow
injury to be done to the many, or even to one innocent person, by allowing
the guilty one to go unchecked.” Key, p. 251
“Shall we be answered to this, in Congreve's words: --
"But who shall dare to tax Eternal Justice?"
Logic and simple common sense, we answer: if we are made to believe in the
"original Sin," in one life, on this Earth only, for every Soul, and in an
anthropomorphic Deity, who seems to have created some men only for the
pleasure of condemning them to eternal hell-fire (and this whether they are
good or bad, says the Predestinarian), why should not every man endowed with
reasoning powers condemn in his turn such a villainous Deity? Life would
become unbearable, if one had to believe in the God created by man's unclean
fancy. Luckily he exists only in human dogmas, and in the unhealthy
imagination of some poets, …
Truly a robust "faith" is required to believe that it is "presumption" to
question the justice of one, who creates helpless little man but to
"perplex" him, and to test a "faith" with which that "Power," moreover, may
have forgotten, if not neglected, to endow him, as happens sometimes.
Compare this blind faith with the philosophical belief, based on every
reasonable evidence and life-experience, in Karma-Nemesis, or the Law of
This Law -- whether Conscious or Unconscious -- predestines nothing and no
one. It exists from and in Eternity, truly, for it is ETERNITY itself; and
as such, since no act can be co-equal with eternity, it cannot be said to
act, for it is ACTION itself. It is not the Wave which drowns a man, but the
personal action of the wretch, who goes deliberately and places himself
under the impersonal action of the laws that govern the Ocean's motion.
Karma creates nothing, nor does it design. It is man who plans and creates
causes, and Karmic law adjusts the effects; which adjustment is not an act,
but universal harmony, tending ever to resume its original position, like a
bough, which, bent down too forcibly, rebounds with corresponding vigour. If
it happen to dislocate the arm that tried to bend it out of its natural
position, shall we say that it is the bough which broke our arm, or that our
own folly has brought us to grief?
Karma has never sought to destroy intellectual and individual liberty, like
the God invented by the Monotheists. It has not involved its decrees in
darkness purposely to perplex man; nor shall it punish him who dares to
scrutinize its mysteries. On the contrary, he who unveils through study and
meditation its intricate paths, and throws light on those dark ways, in the
windings of which so many men perish owing to their ignorance of the
labyrinth of life, is working for the good of his fellow-men. KARMA is an
Absolute and Eternal law in the World of manifestation; and as there can
only be one Absolute, as One eternal ever present Cause, believers in Karma
cannot be regarded as Atheists or materialists -- still less as fatalists:"
for Karma is one with the Unknowable, of which it is an aspect in its
effects in the phenomenal world.
Intimately, or rather indissolubly, connected with Karma, then, is the law
of re-birth, or of the re-incarnation of the same spiritual individuality in
a long, almost interminable, series of personalities. The latter are like
the various costumes and characters played by the same actor, with each of
which that actor identifies himself and is identified by the public, for the
space of a few hours.
The inner, or real man, who personates those characters, knows the whole
time that he is Hamlet for the brief space of a few acts, which represent,
however, on the plane of human illusion the whole life of Hamlet. And he
knows that he was, the night before, King Lear, the transformation in his
turn of the Othello of a still earlier preceding night; but the outer,
visible character is supposed to be ignorant of the fact. [ see Key, p. 34]
In actual life that ignorance is, unfortunately, but too real. Nevertheless,
the permanent individuality is fully aware of the fact, though, through the
atrophy of the "spiritual" eye in the physical body, that knowledge is
unable to impress itself on the consciousness of the false personality. “
S D II 304 - 6
HOW SHOULD WE TREAT OTHERS
The subject relates to our conduct toward and treatment of our fellows,
including in that term all people with whom we have any dealings. No
particular mode of treatment is given by Theosophy.
It simply lays down the law that governs us in all our acts, and declares
the consequences of those acts. It is for us to follow the line of action
which shall result first in harmony now and forever, and second, in the
reduction of the general sum of hate and opposition in thought or act which
now darkens the world.
The great law which Theosophy first speaks of is the law of karma, and this
is the one which must be held in view in considering the question. Karma is
called by some the "law of ethical causation," but it is also the law of
action and reaction; and in all departments of nature the reaction is equal
to the action, and sometimes the reaction from the unseen but permanent
world seems to be much greater than the physical act or word would appear to
warrant on the physical plane.
This is because the hidden force on the unseen plane was just as strong and
powerful as the reaction is seen by us to be. The ordinary view takes in but
half of the facts in any such case and judges wholly by superficial
If we look at the subject only from the point of view of the person who
knows not of Theosophy and of the nature of man, nor of the forces Theosophy
knows to be operating all the time, then the reply to the question will be
just the same as the everyday man makes.
That is, that he has certain rights he must and will and ought to protect;
that he has property he will and may keep and use any way he pleases; and if
a man injure him he ought to and will resent it; that if he is insulted by
word or deed he will at once fly not only to administer punishment on the
offender, but also try to reform, to admonish, and very often to give that
offender up to the arm of the law; that if he knows of a criminal he will
denounce him to the police and see that he has meted out to him the
punishment provided by the law of man. Thus in everything he will proceed as
is the custom and as is thought to be the right way by those who live under
the Mosaic retaliatory law.
But if we are to inquire into the subject as Theosophists, and as
Theosophists who know certain laws and who insist on the absolute sway of
karma, and as people who know what the real constitution of man is, then the
whole matter takes on, or ought to take on, a wholly different aspect.
The untheosophical view is based on separation, the Theosophical upon unity
absolute and actual. Of course if Theosophists talk of unity but as a dream
or a mere metaphysical thing, then they will cease to be Theosophists, and
be mere professors, as the Christian world is today, of a code not followed.
If we are separate one from the other the world is right and resistance is a
duty, and the failure to condemn those who offend is a distinct breach of
propriety, of law, and of duty. But if we are all united as a physical and
psychical fact, then the act of condemning, the fact of resistance, the
insistence upon rights on all occasions - all of which means the entire lack
of charity and mercy - will bring consequences as certain as the rising of
the sun tomorrow.
What are those consequences, and why are they?
They are simply this, that the real man, the entity, the thinker, will react
back on you just exactly in proportion to the way you act to him, and this
reaction will be in another life, if not now, and even if now felt will
still return in the next life.
The fact that the person whom you condemn, or oppose, or judge seems now in
this life to deserve it for his acts in this life, does not alter the other
fact that his nature will react against you when the time comes. The
reaction is a law not subject to nor altered by any sentiment on your part.
He may have, truly, offended you and even hurt you, and done that which in
the eye of man is blameworthy, but all this does not have anything to do
with the dynamic fact that if you arouse his enmity by your condemnation or
judgment there will be a reaction on you, and consequently on the whole of
society in any century when the reaction takes place.
This is the law and the fact as given by the Adepts, as told by all sages,
as reported by those who have seen the inner side of nature, as taught by
our philosophy and easily provable by anyone who will take the trouble to
Logic and small facts of one day or one life, or arguments on lines laid
down by men of the world who do not know the real power and place of thought
nor the real nature of man cannot sweep this away. After all argument and
logic it will remain. The logic used against it is always lacking in certain
premises based on facts, and while seeming to be good logic, because the
missing facts are unknown to the logician, it is false logic. Hence an
appeal to logic that ignores facts which we know are certain is of no use in
this inquiry. And the ordinary argument always uses a number of assumptions
which are destroyed by the actual inner facts about thought, about karma,
about the reaction by the inner man.
The Master "K.H.," once writing to Mr. Sinnett in the Occult World, and
speaking for his whole order and not for himself only, distinctly wrote that
the man who goes to denounce a criminal or an offender works not with nature
and harmony but against both, and that such act tends to destruction instead
Whether the act be large or small, whether it be the denunciation of a
criminal, or only your own insistence on rules or laws or rights, does not
alter the matter or take it out of the rule laid down by that Adept. For the
only difference between the acts mentioned is a difference of degree alone;
the act is the same in kind as the violent denunciation of a criminal.
Either this Adept was right or wrong. If wrong, why do we follow the
philosophy laid down by him and his messenger, and concurred in by all the
sages and teachers of the past? If right, why this swimming in an adverse
current, as he said himself, why this attempt to show that we can set aside
karma and act as we please without consequences following us to the end of
time? I know not. I prefer to follow the Adept, and especially so when I see
that what he says is in line with facts in nature and is a certain
conclusion from the system of philosophy I have found in Theosophy.
I have never found an insistence on my so-called rights at all necessary.
They preserve themselves, and it must be true if the law of karma is the
truth that no man offends against me unless I in the past have offended
In respect to man, karma has no existence without two or more persons being
considered. You act, another person is affected, karma follows. It follows
on the thought of each and not on the act, for the other person is moved to
thought by your act. Here are two sorts of karma, yours and his, and both
There is the karma or effect on you of your own thought and act, the result
on you of the other person's thought; and there is the karma on or with the
other person consisting of the direct result of your act and his thoughts
engendered by your act and thought. This is all permanent.
As affecting you there may be various effects. If you have condemned, for
instance, we may mention some:
(a) the increased tendency in yourself to indulge in condemnation, which
will remain and increase from life to life;
(b) this will at last in you change into violence and all that anger and
condemnation may naturally lead to;
(c) an opposition to you is set up in the other person, which will remain
forever until one day both suffer for it, and this may be in a tendency in
the other person in any subsequent life to do you harm and hurt you in the
million ways possible in life, and often also unconsciously.
Thus it may all widen out and affect the whole body of society. Hence no
matter how justifiable it may seem to you to condemn or denounce or punish
another, you set up cause for sorrow in the whole race that must work out
some day. And you must feel it.
The opposite conduct, that is, entire charity, constant forgiveness, wipes
out the opposition from others, expends the old enmity and at the same time
makes no new similar causes. Any other sort of thought or conduct is sure to
increase the sum of hate in the world, to make cause for sorrow, to
continually keep up the crime and misery in the world. Each man can for
himself decide which of the two ways is the right one to adopt.
Self-love and what people call self-respect may shrink from following the
Adept's view I give above, but the Theosophist who wishes to follow the law
and reduce the general sum of hate will know how to act and to think, for he
will follow the words of the Master of H.P.B. who said: "Do not be ever
thinking of yourself and forgetting that there are others; for you have no
karma of your own, but the karma of each one is the karma of all."
And these words were sent by H.P.B. to the American Section and called by
her words of wisdom, as they seem also to me to be, for they accord with
law. They hurt the personality of the nineteenth century, but the
personality is for a day, and soon it will be changed if Theosophists try to
follow the law of charity as enforced by the inexorable law of karma.
We should all constantly remember that if we believe in the Masters we
should at least try to imitate them in the charity they show for our
weakness and faults. In no other way can we hope to reach their high estate,
for by beginning thus we set up a tendency which will one day perhaps bring
us near to their development; by not beginning we put off the day forever.
William Brehon, F.T.S. PATH, February, 1896
W Q J Articles, Vol. II, p. 357
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